He's jerked from sleep by a shout, his brain scrambled.

His mouth is thick and dry; a crack of his eyes reveals a blur of light and sound, two senses becoming one. He takes a careful breath in and feels no pain, just a deadening that resides in his chest and leaches outward.

Under that, his bones ache, all up and down his body. His jaw feels like he's been clenching his teeth all night. His arms are heavy; he doesn't feel much past his elbows.

His eyes open. The fuzziness gradually focuses into a body, a woman curled up by the door. He has to clear his throat a few times before his voice comes out, husky.


She jerks in the chair, startles awake. Even though his brain is mush, she looks bad. Haggard. "Ok?"

"What?" she says, rubs a hand down her face, then her eyes meet his and she softens. "Hey."

"Too far away."

Kate unfolds from the chair and comes to his bedside, placing her hand at the crook of his elbow. Her fingers are gentle against the skin there; he wishes he could touch her. She sinks down into a chair beside him, hands to herself now.

"Bad dream?" she says.

He clears his throat again, winces with the vibrations that travel to his arm. "That me yelling?"

She nods. "Couple times tonight. Doc said the anesthesia gives people pretty intense dreams."

"Don't remember," he says truthfully, can't help staring at her, soaking her in. "Saved my life."

"Almost didn't," she whispers and drops her head, rubs a hand over her eyes. "You saved your own."

"You're too far away," he says again, hears the hitch in his voice he's not proud of but can't stop.

She jerks to her feet, props her hip against the bed. "Sorry."

"Can't use my hands, you know."

She lets a smile flicker in her eyes, lifts an eyebrow. "And so?"

"You gotta do all the things I'd do. I remember something about you promising to be my hands." His chest is almost too heavy to breathe; unconsciousness tugs at him.

"That was a promise made under duress."

"Those are the best kind," he murmurs, feels his body floating away from him, like he's on a wave. "Bout to fall asleep. Come here."

She leans in closer, brushes her fingers along his forehead, pushing back the hair.

"Get in here with me," he mutters, struggling against the drugs. "Up here. Stay here."

"I'm here," she says softly. "Stop talking, Castle, and get some sleep."

"My hands want to kiss you," he says, and he knows it doesn't make sense but he can't figure out the right words to say. "You promised. . ."

She huffs a laugh against his cheek and leans in even closer, presses her lips against his forehead. "I'm not getting in the bed with you Castle. Not here anyway. Your shoulder was dislocated, your hands are in casts, and you're about to fall asleep."

"Not here? Other places then. Gonna hold. . .hold ya. . .yeah." He can't keep his eyes open any more.

"Sleep." Her fingers along his cheeks, passing over his eyes.

"Love you, Kate."

She's talked with Alexis and Martha today, gotten it all arranged. She's updated the boys. She's had a long conversation with IAB about the shooting and has been cleared, pending a few days' mental health break. She's taken those days with relish, because it means staying up at the hospital more, but now that time is over.

Castle gets out today. Her mouth is dry, but her hand is steady when she opens the door.

"Hey, now. Come to bust me out of prison?" he says, catching sight of her in the doorway. He's already sitting up, the sheet pushed down around his feet, his right arm in a sling and soft cast, his left hand in a plaster cast. He's wearing sweats and a plaid shirt unbuttoned, draped over his right arm. His tshirt has a huge hole that Alexis cut in the side so he can get it on over the sling.

"Yup. I told you I would, didn't I?"

"Must be love," he says, grinning back at her because it still makes her uncomfortable.

She narrows her eyes but heads to the bed. They have a deal, because his hands are encased in plaster for the next three weeks; they have a deal, so she will do all the touching for them both. She lets her fingers slide along his cast, to his elbow, then up his bicep, strokes her thumb along the skin.

"Hey there," he says softly, his eyes still a little dopey from the painkillers.

"Hey back," she says, lets her hand travel up to his neck, touching the bruises there with a feathering of her fingers. "How's it feel?"

"Better. Good drugs."

"Mm-hm," she murmurs, then finally, finally, leans in to brush her lips across his, softly, gently, trying not to start anything they definitely can't finish.

"Ah, that's good," he whispers when she breaks away.

"You dressed?" she says, standing up straight.

"If you want me to be naked, I can be. Quickly."

"Maybe later. What I want, Castle, is to get you the hell out of here."

"Must be something wrong with me."

She raises an eyebrow, a flutter of panic starting in her gut.

"I'd rather get out of here than get naked. I *must* be bad off."

She laughs, mostly with relief, and brushes the hair back from his forehead, smoothing her thumb over his eyebrow. She's not a touchy-feely person, but she's had to learn for Castle's sake. His hands are trapped by plaster.

"You ready?"

"So ready, Detective. Get me outta here." He swings his feet over the side, sways a second. She puts her hand up to his uninjured shoulder to steady him.

"Where's your stuff?"

"In that bag," he says, pointing towards the chair she bypassed. Kate grabs it, slings it over her shoulder, and turns back to him.

"Get going, Castle. Slowpoke."

"Give me a second, sheesh." He slides one foot to the ground, then the other, stands like he's got arthritis.

"Don't be a baby. Your legs aren't broken, just your hands."

"Meds make me dizzy," he whines.

"Likely story."

"Also, I just spent thirty minutes wrestling my pants on. All by myself, I might add. You never offered."

"I never will. Don't wanna see that." She's barely even paying attention to their conversation; she studies his every movement intently, waits for him to ease to a standing position, checks to be sure he really is okay.

"Never ends with you, does it?" He flashes a triumphant grin her way and shuffles forward. "Hey, look at me walking!"

"Most people at your advanced age *are* having trouble with that," she says back. "So it's a real accomplishment."

"Thanks, thanks."

Thing is, if she stops teasing him, she'll end up saying something stupid. Or something that commits her. What the hell, she's already committed. Still. . .this is how she handles things. This is the only way she knows.

Castle swings his head to look at her, delicately puts his left arm around her shoulders so that his cast hangs down.

"Jeez, that's heavy," she says, lifting the cast up with a hand.

"This is why I'm so slow."

"It's not 'cause you're old?"

"Laugh it up, young Jedi." He squeezes her neck with his elbow, stops her from walking out the door ahead of him, drags her a little closer.

"I thought you wanted to go," she murmurs, watching him, the light that shifts in his eyes.

"This first, now that I'm vertical." He tugs her closer with his arm around her neck, lets his lips brush across hers, waiting for permission.

She opens to him, feels the weight of his cast drop to her waist, knows that his fingers are twitching in their prison by the wince against her tongue. She presses a hand to his chest, steps in closer, lets the kiss take her mind off all the things she can't say, all the bad dreams she won't share.

He breaks first; she can practically feel the way his hands would be caressing her face, the gentle touch of his fingers. Phantom impressions.

"I do want to go. But I want you to stay with me, Kate. At my place. Please. Nurse me." He gives a little grin, but there's neediness in his eyes.

She's promised to do all the touching, promised to be his hands, promised him anything. He doesn't remember all of that, but she does. She remembers sliding through his study door to gather him up, remembers almost losing him in the ambulance ride over, remembers the way his voice sounded when he cried out in pain.

These are the things they haven't talked about, and won't. He says only that Tyson was waiting for him in his bedroom, that Tyson got the drop on him with the taser, but he doesn't say what else he might remember from that morning. He doesn't say how he got the ligature marks, doesn't say why she found him in the study with his hands mangled and tied behind his back.

He remembers enough though. She sees it in his face when he wakes up from a dream, sees it in the moments she catches him staring at her, off-guard.

And she's pretty sure that he remembers telling her that he loves her too, but he's been nice enough not to bring it up again.

He's still waiting for an answer.

"All right."

He grins, leans down to kiss her again but she backs up, breaks his meager hold anyway. "No more of that until we get home. And then. . ."

Castle, instead of giving her another leer, instead sighs, closes his eyes. "Home. That sounds good."

It does. It sounds like the only place she wants to be.