Note: The events in Serendipity occur a few weeks after Go Out Fighting. It is not necessary, plot-wise, to have read that story in order to understand this one, but it does lay the foundation for the relationship events that occur in this one.
This is for carolina17, because you know I can't resist a challenge; and all the reviewers who have left such amazing, insightful, lovely words about the things I've written, whether anonymously, critically, gushingly, or belatedly. You just don't know what it means to me.
-the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way
-the "sagacity" of being able to link together apparently innocuous facts to come to a valuable conclusion
"Chance favors the prepared mind."
When they came for her, she wasn't prepared.
When they came for her, she was in a hospital bed without her weapon, with her blood singing sweet nothings to her brain, with her body weighed down by tubes, tape, stitches, and sheets, with agony still etched into her marrow like scrimshaw.
When they came for, she wasn't prepared.
But Richard Castle was.
She had a dream. She was on a ship, she wore a dress and boots that snapped up past her ankles. She was in a corset that was too tight and she had trouble taking deep breaths. The ship was being. . .attacked by pirates. That was reason for the violent shuddering of the floor beneath her feet. She had no weapon. She shouldn't have a weapon if she was on a ship, with pirates, with an ocean out there, wearing a corset. Should she?
So she grabbed the baby, the little baby, whose baby was it? She grabbed the baby to protect it and ran towards the bathroom.
Which wasn't strange at all in the dream. That the bathroom, the modern, tiled bathroom would be on a ship. Someone had been drawing a bath; the water sloshed. She locked the door (there was a deadbolt, inexplicably) and she felt her heart pounding, so hard, so fast that her whole body shook. So hard, pounding, thundering through her veins in time to the shaking of the floor.
The baby was now toddler-sized. And a boy. Not a girl. The boy climbed into the bath, the water up to his knees. Kate reached over and shut off the water and the silence was wrong. She shivered, felt the constriction of her chest in the corset, and wished she could take it off. Not really a good time to be changing clothes though.
She felt the ship shudder and then heard the crunch of boards, the scream of metal. The ship had been rammed by pirates. She heard their laughter, felt their many bodies hitting the deck, their feet pounding. She climbed into the bathtub after the boy, yanked the shower curtain closed to hide.
If she had her weapon.
She leaned over and put her head between her knees, trying to breathe. She fumbled at the stays of her dress, tried to loosen them, but couldn't find relief; the strings were knotted and damp.
The boy shivered in the water. The hem of Kate's dress dragged her down; she sank to her knees, put her forehead on the cool tub. The smell of water and porcelain, the faint hint of chemical, filled her mouth, made her throat convulse. She clamped her hand over her mouth, shoulders hitched, scrambled out of the bathtub to get to the toilet.
She vomited; the smell of stale urine and cleaning fluids brought it up again, and she heaved over the bowl, unable to get her breath. She choked, felt the wet dress against her back like a heavy hand, pushing her down. The sounds of pirates above her head. The groan of the ship breaking up.
She threw up again. Gasped for breath. She clawed at the dress, tried to peel it off of her.
The boy was at her elbow. He looked familiar. He was wet now too, and patting her awkwardly on the back. She pushed him away, tried to tell him to hide, but couldn't talk for the acid burning the back of her throat, her vocal cords. He looked familiar, and sad, and he stood up and headed for the door.
She lunged for him, tripped over the dress, and watched in horror as he opened the door to a pirate.
"No!" she yelled.
Castle, on his feet, captured her flailing arms, pressed her wrists together with one hand so he could press the other to her shoulder, keep her immobilized. Already a nurse was entering the room, alerted by her heart rate, and she stooped over to check Kate's pupils, her breathing, looked at the IV bag.
Kate bucked, made a mewling noise as the movement caused her pain.
"Is she dreaming?" Castle asked, starting to feel a little panicked.
"Looks like," the nurse said and reached for Kate's chart. "Sometimes people have these kind of reactions to the anesthesia and the painkillers. Bad dreams, almost like night terrors. It might be hard to get her. . .out of it."
"Kate," he said, leaning in close, putting an arm across her body to hold her to the bed. The nurse on the last shift had warned him that if Kate thrashed around a lot, she'd have to put her in restraints to keep her from tearing the stitches. "Kate, wake up. You're okay. It's just a dream."
His voice sounded strange to his own ears; he'd been sitting in silence so long, unable to speak, unable to talk to her like the doctors had suggested. If he talked to her, he'd make a fool of himself; he'd blubber and break down.
Her eyes rolled under her lids; he felt her fingers twitching, clawing at something, then at him. He winced as her nails caught his tricep, a fresh, stinging line down the skin; he wondered if it was bleeding.
"Kate. Wake up."
She surged up on a shout, her mouth open and round, her eyes watching some horror, her body trying to arch under his arm. Castle caressed the side of her face, tried to soothe the look from her eyes, tried not to be afraid for her. But she was awake.
She blinked, her body lowered a little. Her features contorted into a rictus of pain; she gasped and jerked with it, her hands flying up to clutch at his arm, her nails digging into his skin.
"Hurts," she gasped, and her eyes flicker to his, lock there, unrelenting.
"I know it does. I know, I'm sorry," he whispered. They'd done this before. How many times would she wake up like this? How many times would he have to see her like this? The stripped away Beckett, the vulnerable Kate. He hated it. He hated it. He'd been an arrogant son of a bitch, wanting to see this, wanting to know every last detail about her. It wasn't right; no one should be able to see this deep into someone.
The nurse squeezed the IV bag a little. "She's still got an hour before I can change this," she said glancing at the clock in the room, then back to the chart. "Kate. Can you tell me how bad the pain is? 1 to 10."
Kate whimpered, her whole body tense under his arm, still clutching at him. She was looking dead at him, no longer even pleading, just riding it out.
"Just do something," he growled and jerked his head to look at the nurse.
Kate's body spasmed and she closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. "10. 10. 10."
"I'll call the doctor; see what he says we can do." The nurse reached for the bedside phone. Castle wished Ana, the nurse from the trauma unit was still with them. But at least Kate was in the step-down unit now; at least the tentative nurse here meant that Beckett was supposedly getting better.
He'd done this all before. Yesterday. Earlier today maybe. Before. The bullet's damage might be healing, but her pain didn't get any better. They were trying to ween her off the medication. She'd been in the step-down unit for a week. The physical therapy sessions were scheduled for tomorrow. She needed to be better than this.
"Kate, just breathe. Don't hold your breath," he warned, stroking his fingers along her cheekbone, trying to be gentle.
"Pirates," she moaned.
"What?" Castle cradled her head, pressed a kiss to her forehead. "No pirates. Just breathe. There you go." She took in a shuddering, shallow breath under his arm and he eased off of her a little bit. "There you go. Breathe. It will get better."
"Just us, Kate. No pirates."
She hitched in her breath, let it out shakily. "What?"
"No pirates here. Breathe."
And she was awake. He grinned and kissed her cheek, releasing a breath into her hair he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Nothing. You had a dream."
"Get off me, Castle." Her fingers curled along his arm. "I can't breathe."
"Yeah." He removed his arm, grinning at her again, so relieved it hurt.
She laid in the bed, eyes open but fixed on the ceiling, fists clenched, and rode out the pain in silence. The drugs gave her nightmares, made her jerk and twitch and thrash in her sleep, which sometimes did damage to the places still healing. With the movement and the damage came more pain. Which meant they took it slower, the medication hitting a plateau, which just caused more nightmares. A vicious cycle.
At least pirates weren't so bad. Not as bad as the one in which she'd been sobbing his name, not as bad as the one in which she'd thought he had tried to kill her and she struggled to get away from him. Not as bad as the ones in which she relived every shooting, every almost, every could have been, every blood-filled memory.
Not as bad as the one where she cried out for her mother.
At least this was just pirates.
She always made him tell her the dreams; she could see it in his face, probably, and she had the renewal of her agony to tell her she'd been having a nightmare. "This time?" she said on a grunt, still tense with the effort of keeping the pain at bay.
"Pirates. You said pirates."
"Ah. Anything else?"
"Nope. Oh, a boy?"
"Hm," she murmured and her body eased a little.
He reached out and took her hand, cradled it. Her fingers relaxed into his palm; he spread them out, stroking down each digit until the rest of her body started to melt back into the bed. After a time, she curled her fingers around his and tugged.
Castle stood up and sat on the bed next to her hip, their hands linked between them.
A shuffling noise intruded. Castle saw the nurse heading back into the room. "Sorry, Dr. Reid doesn't want to add any more juice to the mix."
Kate let out a breath. "Don't want any more."
"You said it was a ten."
Castle and the nurse exchanged a look. "Well, your wish has come true." The nurse checked the IV line and the insertion point in the back of Kate's hand. "Looks good. Didn't rip out the line. I noticed the cop is gone out there. They catch the guy?"
Castle jerked away from the bed, releasing Kate's hand so he could run into the hall. She was right. The officer stationed outside Kate's room was gone. He glanced around, heard a door closing, the sound of a nurse at the nurse's station. No one in the waiting room; her father had left Castle on duty this morning.
He pulled out his cell phone and texted the boys for an update. If they had caught the guy, wouldn't that have been big news? The guy from Montgomery's damaging file; the guy behind all of this; the guy he hadn't yet told Kate Beckett about.
Because she's hardly conscious for long enough to tell her anyway.
That's what he told himself. But if the protection detail had gotten pulled, Esposito and Ryan would've been down here themselves. Castle would have a text message about it.
His phone came to life and he opened a message from Alexis.
Where are you?
Castle turned back towards Kate's room, confused by Alexis's message. He'd just seen her not twenty minutes ago; she'd been the one to wake him up this morning and remind him that Kate's father wouldn't be there, that it was his turn for Kate duty.
Strange. He opened up a reply, pushing on the door to Kate's room, trying to text with one hand. Just as he did, he heard the click of the door again, far down the hall. The door to the stairs. And paired with that noise was the sound of something else, a click he heard right before the boys raided a warehouse or apartment building for a suspect.
The safety coming off.
The officer outside her room was gone.
Kate was already yanking lines out of her body when he came back in at a rush; battling the nurse, battling her body, her lips pressed into a thin line of rage and determination. Instead of pressing her back into the bed, Castle yanked the sheets off her body, pushing the nurse out of his way, reached under the bed for her shoes and shoved them on her feet.
"What are you doing? Have you gone crazy?" The nurse slapped at his hands.
He had a thought, ran to the window and looked out; he could hear Kate trying to fight off the nurse. The black and white stationed just outside the hospital's back entrance was gone. "The car is gone, Kate."
He looked over at her, face grim and pale, and felt the weight of it settle into his bones. He turned to the nurse still trying to keep Kate in the bed. "You need to get out of here, get out of her room; it's not safe," Castle said. "Someone's coming. The uniform outside is gone, Kate; the car is gone."
"Help me get this," Kate panted.
He wanted to be gentle, but they didn't have time. He ripped the oxygen tube from her nose, untangled it from her hair, threw it down. Forget the shoes.
"You've got to stop this." The nurse had picked up the phone to call security, a doctor, someone. Castle didn't have time.
"Go to the nurse's station. Get Claire, get whoever else is on duty tonight; hide. Promise me you'll hide."
"You can't do this-"
Kate was already trying to get her legs over the side of the bed, using both hands to drag her left thigh up and over, shoes untied. Castle turned back to her, peeled the tape off her hand, hesitant about the IV bag, but went ahead and jerked the line out as well. She shivered violently; her face was a mask of pain.
"Stop, Kate." He gathered her against his chest and lifted, his back screaming at him to use his knees, and got her up off the bed. It took some maneuvering to get her over the bed rails, and then he was heading for the door at a jog.
The nurse was behind him.
He stopped, glanced down the hall, felt very vulnerable like this. They were on one end of a long corridor. Lots of rooms between him and the elevators, him and the stairs.
"Stairs?" he asked, glanced down at Kate. The nurse had a hand on his arm, trying to detain him or something.
Kate shook her head. "He'd used the stairs."
Her body was tight with pain against his chest; he couldn't be gentle and also get her out of here. He stepped into the hall, gave the nurse a little shove with his shoulder.
"Go find Claire. Call the police. Hide."
"C-castle," Kate gasped.
She was heavy, so tense and rigid in his arms, dragging him down. He crushed her against him as best he could, started for the elevators in the main shorter end of the bisecting corridor, just past the nurses' station. "There are stairs by the elevators too," he said, remembering. "Stairs at either end of this hall, and stairs by the elevators. What do I do?"
She groaned. "Stairs, far stairs. He'll use-" She cried out as he started to run. "-he'll use the ones by the elevator or the ones closest to my room."
"But not the far stairs. Got it. Sorry, Kate. I know it hurts."
She buried her head against his shoulder, one hand against her stomach, one curled in his shirt. He jogged to the main corridor, stopped before clearing it, poked his head around. One elevator was open on their floor. The other was on the move. He saw a shadow of movement through the window set into the stairway door just past the bank of elevators.
He sprinted across the open area, past the nurses' desk. The nurse, he couldn't remember that woman's name, and Claire, they were nowhere in sight. He wasn't sure he'd been believed. That was fine too; they'd call security, the cops, someone official.
While Kate's end of the hall, a short hall, had been cleared of patients just for security's sake, this end held rooms of sick people. Some of the doors were open, some closed. People stared at them as he ran. A man called out. A nurse yelled at him. It wasn't Claire; he didn't know her. He heard a strange pop, felt the blowback as pieces of the wall exploded near his elbow.
"Castle," she bit out, her chin pressed into his clavicle painfully. "Gun!"
"I've got you," he panted and used his foot to kick into the bar handle across the fire door, shoved his shoulder into the space to get through it quickly, felt the spit of plaster against his left cheek. He heard his phone clatter against the floor; it had fallen out of the pocket he'd hastily shoved it into.
He slid to a stop as the door banged shut behind him. Saw the metal dent inwards, the small fist of a bullet. Damn. He couldn't go back now.
Castle turned to the stairs. She gasped and her hand, trapped between them, clutched at his shirt, scraped his skin. He glanced down and saw she'd been crying; she was still crying. He didn't have time to stop, to be gentle; he jogged down the first set of stairs.
She cried out. "No. Up, up, Up."
He reversed direction, took the steps two at a time without looking, fear and adrenaline surging him upward, upward. "What are we doing Kate?"
She was hanging on to him with both hands, curled in on herself as the pain took her in waves. "Get out. Here."
"Just one floor up, you mean? Get out-"
"Yesss," she hissed, closed her eyes.
"Hey, damn it. Kate. Don't pass out on me." He lifted a knee and shoved it into the push-bar of the door, leaned, banged his hip into it to pop it open.
"Not, not passing out," she said, breathless. "Don't. . .curse at me."
He laughed, strangled and desperate sounding, and jogged down the hall back towards the elevators. One floor up and it looked exactly the same. Mostly closed doors on this one. Cute balloons. Pink, blue. A small isolette-
"Oh no," he cursed under his breath. "Maternity. Not good. Kate, it's the maternity floor-"
But she had her face pressed into his shoulder again; he felt her teeth against him. She was grunting against the cloth of his shirt; he felt the reverberations of the sound in his bones. And then she went limp.
Unconscious Kate was harder to hold; he jogged down the corridor and she bounced gracelessly in his arms, her head lolling back. At the nurses' station, he didn't even bother to look at them. He needed to get ahold of Esposito, Ryan, somebody. He needed help. He needed to hide.
Maternity. Damn it. He had to hide them. He couldn't run out of the hospital with her like this; she needed doctors, nurses, pain meds. But he was putting them all in danger by being on this floor, stupidly circling around in the middle of the main corridor, but where else-
A nurse grabbed him by the shoulder. Castle spun around, panic clawing at his throat. "I need an empty room. Please-"
"What are you doing, sir? You need to-"
"She's a police officer. Someone is trying to kill her. I need an empty room. Right now!"
The nurse only gaped at him.
"A phone. Someone have a phone? I need a phone."
Three pairs of eyes just stared at him; one hand reached for a landline, but he couldn't wait around out here. The guy would be after them. Up or down, either way, eventually, he'd check the floors, see them here-
Castle bolted for the short corridor that mirrored Kate's a floor below. The guy would go for the stairs at the far end, come up or down those after them. He'd need quick access to stairs if it came to it; but for now, Castle wanted a hiding place. He needed a room, an empty room.
The nurses would call security, that was good. They'd follow him, most likely, which wasn't good. He needed a phone. He needed to get a call to Esposito.
He'd known this was coming. He'd seen the inevitable outcome the moment the NYPD had placed officers outside Kate's ICU room.
He hadn't expected it to happen this fast; but he did have a plan in place.
He needed a phone.