It started like any other day. A new case, a theory, a lead. It stopped being just any other day before they could even pick up a suspect.
In the span of two hours, Beckett began to question the very foundation of her working relationship with Castle. Because now she was faced with the all too real possibility that it was over.
It was worse than just their partnership ending, but that was the most manageable problem she could focus on while she sat in a hospital waiting room. She couldn't think about Castle lying in a bed on the same floor, or the flurry of doctors trying and failing to wake him the hell up.
So, she sat. She swore at no one in particular and received no response. It was deadly quiet.
Two hours earlier
"Should I even bother asking you to stay in the car?" She opened the door without waiting for a response, already a few steps ahead when he managed to get out.
Castle ran to match the stride of her retreating form. "You know me so well," he replied with a smile, watching her face closely to see if he could catch the corner of her mouth turning up before she could hide it.
He was enjoying her playful insults today. She was smiling more than usual, and he found himself staring more than once. In fact, he was pretty sure she'd caught him in the act, too, but she didn't reprimand him.
"Yeah, well for a mystery writer you're not so mysterious. I've had you pegged since day one." She held up a finger and smirked.
His mouth fell open in argument. "I beg to differ."
"No surprise there."
Before he could reply, they reached a shipping dock and Beckett quickly spotted a man holding a clipboard who seemed to be in charge.
She greeted him badge first, and Castle marveled at how she could go from joking to cutthroat in .2 seconds. "Detective Kate Beckett. Is Brett Weathers here today?"
He rolled his eyes and sighed. "What's he done now?"
"We just need to speak with him about an ongoing investigation. Where can we find him?"
Castle didn't have time to think about teasing her for using "we" before a man caught wind of their purpose here.
The suspect slowly made his way to the door leading outside, his hands in his pockets and a hat hanging low over the top portion of his face.
Unfortunately, the exit was only a few steps from Beckett and Castle, and he wasn't moving as nonchalantly as he hoped.
"That's him," the manager told them without trying to speak softly, motioning to the left with his chin.
Brett's pace quickened to a near run when Beckett stepped in his direction, and he made a dash for it, smashing into Castle as he stepped in the way of his escape.
They stumbled. Both men went flying off the shipping dock, arms flailing.
Castle's head met the ground first with a loud crack. His eyes bulged before closing in pain, and he couldn't suck in a deep enough breath to satisfy his lungs as Brett landed on top of his now unmoving body.
It only deterred him for a moment before he was back on his feet and fleeing the scene.
It all happened so fast, leaving little to no time for Beckett to react until the damage was done. She was torn between a chase and checking on Castle. It took her all of a second to decide to call for backup as she ran to his side, hoping the cracking sound from before wasn't serious.
Feeling for his pulse with two fingers to his neck, and noticing his eyes flutter open, she turned to see which direction their suspect had gone. He was nowhere to be seen.
"Dammit!" she shouted in the runner's general direction. Turning back to Rick, she asked, "Are you okay?"
The manager watched from his perch a few feet above them, and he called down to ask if they needed help. Beckett shook her head. "More detectives will be here soon, and they'll have some questions for you. Don't go too far."
With that out of the way, she turned her attention back to Rick.
Blinking rapidly a few times, he waited for the stars shooting across his vision to soon disappear. Her hand pushed against his chest when he tried to sit up.
"Don't try to move yet. I'm calling an ambulance. I think you passed out for a few seconds." Her phone was already connecting.
Castle reached out and hit the end button before she realized what he was doing. "That's going a little far. I didn't pass out. I was just...napping."
She sighed and ignored his ridiculous explanation. "Your eyes were closed too long for my comfort," she reasoned, as if to a child. Her fingers were already on the buttons again.
"If you insist that I get medical attention, at least drive me yourself? No need for an ambulance."
Beckett considered for a moment and put the phone away, nodding. She leaned forward, running her fingers through his hair to the back of his head.
His eyes widened in shock, but he leaned into her touch without questioning it. Why look a gift horse in the mouth?
When she tried to pull his head into her lap, however, Castle jerked away in surprise – a movement that caused him some discomfort after the fall - and looked at her questioningly.
"Relax. I'm feeling for a bump, or maybe some blood or missing brains." She smiled to cover up her worry and tried again to prop his head up on her leg, this time without resistance.
"I lost those many moons ago, I'm afraid."
His joke helped relieve some of her tension, but a yelp of pain drowned out her short laugh. "Huge bump here," Beckett said softly, fingertips gently etching out the sore area. Her fingers continued to thread through his hair at leisure. "Are you okay to walk?"
He was tempted to say no just so he could sit there and let her touch him, but he settled for a few seconds of pretending to mull it over before he nodded. "I might need some help, though," he admitted.
It wasn't just an excuse for contact, he realized when he tried to sit up. The ground spun and tilted for a few seconds when his upper half went vertical. Beckett quickly sensed this and held onto his shoulder with one hand while the other gave his back some support.
"Slowly," she murmured, rubbing circles over his shoulder blades until he was ready to move. "There's no rush."
Castle felt her arm loop through his when he shifted onto one knee and then stood. "You're good at the support thing, you know."
She laughed. "I've had some practice. Come on; let's get you to that doctor."
A layer of glass and about six steps was all that physically separated them. Beckett watched from this distance, knowing for certain even an inch forward would catapult her over a never-ending cliff.
Half of her itched to take that leap. It would be easier than watching a terrified mother and daughter look on at their loved one, with everyone's hands clasped tightly: a circle of hope and hurting that had no foreseeable end.
The other half screamed and cried out. There was too much lack of noise. She wanted to fill the hallway with her despair, let everyone share in the distress she was feeling.
But she couldn't, so she instead concentrated on the scribbling of busy pens and beeping of ever-watchful machines.
And nurses talking too loudly about the inhabitants of hospital rooms.
"He's an author, apparently," one whispered louder than most would speak at a normal level.
"Not anymore. He fell pretty hard, and the bleed was so slow…" the other replied, looking down in sadness that didn't match a tenth of the detective's. Beckett recognized this one as the blonde nurse who'd checked Castle's vitals thirty minutes ago.
"Classic talk and die syndrome. Natasha Richardson all over again." Her tone turned to one of a schoolgirl with the newest gossip. "Did you see the couple in 31-B? That's got to hurt!"
The blonde giggled in agreement. "I took pictures."
It took everything she had – which wasn't much, considering how all of her energy was directed toward not breaking down in a public place – not to toss the nurses against a wall, cuff them, and lock them in a cage where they could rot.
Beckett decided enough was enough when they began to describe 31-B's mutilated occupants, and she turned back to the unchanged scene on the other side of the glass. Alexis' lips moved, words trying to spill out but unable to squeeze past their trembling barrier.
She didn't have to hear what was being said in the room to know what the young girl was trying to choke out: variations of the pleas Kate was echoing in her own mind. Wake up. I need you. Don't leave me. Wake up. Wake up.
But Castle was stubborn even in his sleep, and his body slumbered on.
A doctor came down the hallway and laid a comforting hand on Kate's shoulder. "Would you like to come in while I brief everyone on Mr. Castle's condition?"
She jumped a little, not expecting the touch, and most definitely not the question. Perplexed, her eyebrows knitted. "I'm allowed to be in there for that?"
The doctor's expression bore just as much confusion. "Ms. Rodgers informed me that you're family, so of course. Are you not Mrs. Castle?"
Kate didn't know what to say to that, so she just swallowed any protests and nodded, quickly deciding to leave before anyone else could try to tie her in with this family more than she already was. "But, I actually have to go now. They'll fill me in later." She took a step backwards, attempting to smile and look pulled together.
The man nodded, still looking like he'd missed something, and proceeded to enter uncharted territory without her.
One hour earlier
His laughter was much more uninhibited than hers, which was cautious and half-hearted, but it was a miracle Castle had even managed to make her crack a smile.
Beckett was tense. The doctors weren't bringing the results for his CT fast enough for her liking. Though, any amount of time other than immediately would have been too long for her.
Finally giving up on using distraction as a way to pass the time and ease her worry, he sighed. "I'm fine, Beckett."
She glanced over him and crossed her arms. "I'll just wait for the professionals to tell me that before we bring out the champagne."
He snorted. "Always so skeptical. Fine then, since you refuse to see that I'm okay, I'll play my part as the pitiful patient." He mentally congratulated himself on the unintentional alliteration before coughing pathetically. "I'm thirsty. And cold."
That had the detective giving him a true smile, quickly hidden by one of her infamous eye-rolls. "You're such a baby. I'm going to go ask the kind nurse if she knows when we'll get some answers."
Castle kept up the pout as he teased. "You mean bug the hell out of the nurse you've so endearingly named, 'that unhelpful bitch'?" She grinned. "You've asked at least five times by now. Try some patience."
"You're certainly trying mine," she retorted when he shivered dramatically, clutching the blanket closer to himself. "I'll be right back." She handed him a glass of water on her way out.
He laid back and sipped through a straw while he waited. Truth be told, his head was still pounding and he could hear as well as feel each rush of blood through his veins. Though he tried to convince Kate that nothing was wrong, he truly was worried about the results of his scan.
Kate approached the nurse, reminding herself that the name wasn't actually "that unhelpful bitch", but failing to remember what it really was. "Excuse me?" She fought back an irritated tone.
The nurse didn't even turn around to face the detective. "Ma'am, I've already told you that you'll know the second the scans come back."
Kate gritted her teeth. "Yes, I heard you before, but it's been almost an hour. If it weren't for the fact that he could be bleeding into his skull right now, I'd gladly leave you alone."
She turned and sighed deeply. "The doctors know what they're doing. If it were serious, they'd have been up here already. Please be patient." It came out as more of a command, and Beckett found herself standing up straighter to look intimidating before she walked away.
Punching a nurse wouldn't make this go any faster, she told herself as she made her way back to Castle's room.
He smiled up at her when she entered. "It's so cute when you get protective," he told her.
She snorted. "Don't flatter yourself. I just want to get home is all" .But the smile she gave him in return let him know she was lying.
As she took her place in a chair at his side, she noticed he was sweating and his breathing was shallow. Her heart sped up and she frowned. He caught it before she could hide it, always annoyingly in tune with her emotions.
Beckett sighed and said, "Nothing." He gave her a moment of silence before lowering his head to catch her gaze. "You look…bad," she finally admitted.
"It's the lighting. Hospitals don't complement my skin tone," Castle joked, but she didn't laugh. "Hey, look at me." He waited until she met his eyes. "I'm feeling a little queasy, but it's nothing. They'd rush up here if the scan was abnormal."
"That's not a good sign. Maybe I should go tell Nurse Hunter." The name finally came to mind.
Castle wanted to argue with her, but it was getting harder to concentrate on his surroundings, so he simply nodded and laid his head back.
His lack of fight had Beckett jumping up and quickly exiting the room. "Nurse Hunter-" she started.
"Mrs. Beckett, for the last time, please go sit down and wait. It shouldn't be much longer," she hissed, her head not popping up from above the clipboard she was staring at.
Kate slammed her fists down on the counter, effectively gaining the nurse's undivided attention. "He's sweaty and queasy, and his eyes are unfocused. Tell me that's normal?" she demanded. Her voice rose when she received no answer. "Call a damn doctor up here now."
Beckett tossed her keys on a table inside the door as she slid out of her shoes.
Times like these made it hard to come home to an empty apartment. There were no distractions big enough to keep her from seeing Castle's eyes close shut.
He only wanted to take a nap, he told her blurry form. And now there was a chance he wouldn't wake up.
"Don't go there," she told herself, but she was never a very good listener, even when it came to listening to herself.
It's all she could think about while she sat on her couch, wrapping her arms around her legs and waiting for Josh to read her text and come over.
It only took him twenty minutes. She knew because she counted the ticks of the clock, letting the sound drive everything else from her mind.
"Kate?" he called out as he entered the apartment. She was sitting on the couch, looking more broken than he'd ever seen her.
She looked up at him, the relief clear in her eyes. He misread it, thinking she was just happy to see him after a long day. Josh went to her side, pulling her into a hug and kissing the top of her head.
"Is everything okay?" he asked her when she didn't move to hug him back.
"Someone I work with…" Went into a coma because he fell a few damn feet? She couldn't say it. "…was hurt on the job. I don't know if he's going to make it." Of course he is. He's Castle. Don't even think that.
She winced when she thought of his name, and Josh took it as a reaction to his hands rubbing circles on her back. He pulled away and used two fingers to lightly touch her chin and force her to look at him. "What happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it," she mumbled.
He sighed in frustration. "What do you want me to do, then?" This was his Kate: stubborn, closed off, beautiful even when hurting. He only wanted to protect her, but she was an independent woman who would turn on him for even thinking she needed a protector.
"Distract me," she whispered. She moved one leg to each side his waist and kissed him, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
His hands went to her back, and he held her close. All he wanted was more of her, and all she could do was imagine Castle's hands in his place.
Hello, everyone! Long time, no write. I'd like to start out by saying this story is already completely outlined and researched. I plan to post every 3-4 days. I've always been awful with timely posting, but this will be different. I've only got one more chapter left in my other major story, and that should be up sometime this next week, which will be one distraction out of the way.
Thanks to Andy and Jade for forcing me to write and post. You're the nicest bossy ladies I know.
Reviews are much appreciated.