AUTHOR'S NOTES: Well! By popular demand, I have decided to continue this story. It was originally intended to be a one-shot, but after the overwhelming about of story alerts and requests for more, I decided to give you readers what you want! Hope you enjoy this chapter as much as the last. I do have some ideas for at least one more chapter, so stay tuned!
After their piecemeal dinner of miscellaneous leftovers, Beckett went to take a hot bath, and then go to bed early, claiming exhaustion. Castle didn't doubt her, but he also recognized she probably needed some space as well. However, when he was about to leave, she refused to let him go.
"I thought you wanted to be alone," Castle had said, confused.
"Yeah, well... not alone alone," said Beckett. "I just want to get some sleep."
"Please stay," she said.
Castle couldn't ask for a clearer answer than that. After Beckett went upstairs, he called Alexis, asking her to bring him a change of clothes.
"Really, Dad?" Alexis asked incredulously. "You're gonna make me cover for your walk of shame?"
"I'm just kidding, Dad. It's about time you and Beckett—"
He explained the real story, trying to keep the gory details to a minimum. He didn't want Alexis to worry too much, although he couldn't hide the bandages from her when she arrived. She hugged him and gave him a discreet black bag, and asked if Beckett was all right. Castle evasively told her that she was doing okay and was just in the bath. He found himself simultaneously wishing Alexis would leave so he wouldn't have to put up a front, and wishing he could make her stay the night so he wouldn't be alone. She had solved the dilemma for him by reminding him that she had a paper to write, and so she left.
Castle sat down at the table and opened the bag, eager to have a shirt to put on. He smiled when he unfolded it – wrapped inside the t-shirt was his favorite coffee mug, and inside the cup was a piece of paper that simply read "I love you" in Alexis's handwriting. I have the best daughter in New York, he thought. No – the world. He happily, albeit very carefully, put on the clean clothes. Tucked inside the button-up shirt was something else he was happy to see – his small pocket notebook that he had carried with him when he had first starting shadowing Beckett. He pulled a pen out of the pocket of his jeans and flipped to the next blank page and started writing.
. . .
Beckett tipped her head back onto the edge of the bathtub, feeling the tingly heat of the bubbles warming every inch of her skin. Only hot water could make her feel that warm. Well, water, or the embrace of someone who would protect her. Her mom had made her feel that way when she had hugged her. Beckett would give anything to feel that again, but for now – forever – the hot water would have to be enough. Her mind drifted again to the tender massage Rick had given her a few hours before. That was warm, she thought, and she felt a smile play across her lips. That was what had been missing with Josh, she realized. Hugging him hadn't felt warm like that. Strong and safe, sure – he had dwarfed her – but that wasn't the same. There was no heat aside from his physical body temperature. So how did Castle manage to make her feel warm when he was himself freezing, and with only his fingertips on her sore neck? She closed her eyes, recalling the pleasant memory, and imagining it was repeated as she soaked in the hot water.
Just let it happen, said the devil on her shoulder. You know he'd be more than happy. He's just waiting for you.
You know it's not that simple, said the angel. You can't, Kate. There's a wall in the way.
Beckett sighed, sliding a little deeper under the bubbles so they covered her scar. She hated to look at it.
This has to be enough. You know that.
Suddenly, Beckett wasn't entirely sure if the angel was the angel or the devil. I don't even know what to think anymore, she thought. Trying her best to let it go for the moment, she focused her mind on the comfort of the hot bath. Through a lot of deep breathing, she was able to clear her mind enough that she drifted off, but as soon as she was asleep, the nightmares returned.
She was in the morgue with Lanie, going over the results from ballistics. Lanie was clearly holding something back – Beckett could tell from the tone in her voice that something wasn't right.
"Lanie, what's going on?" Beckett asked. "There's something you're not telling me."
"Yeah..." Lanie admitted. "Oh honey, I'm so sorry."
"Lanie?" Beckett struggled to keep the panic out of her voice.
Lanie walked her to a second slab, and pulled back the white sheet. Beckett froze. It was her dad. Lanie faltered, tears in her eyes.
"Esposito took the call this morning," she said.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME?" Beckett screamed.
"I was going to, honey, I just... I couldn't."
Beckett was about to strangle Lanie, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from her father's body. She threw herself on his chest, shaking with silent tears and ignoring Lanie's murmurs of comfort.
"Beckett. KATE. There's one other thing. This gun..."
Beckett turned around, and her heart stopped when she saw it.
"That's the gun that shot me," she said breathlessly.
"The very same," Lanie confirmed, nodding towards the table. Beckett looked back at the slab where her father lay, but his face had changed.
Now, it was Castle.
Overcome, Beckett sank to the floor, everything turning black...
She woke up underwater. Choking, she sat up straighter and wrapped her hands around the edges of bathtub and gasped for breath. When she could breathe again, she wiped the water from her face and climbed out of the bathtub, suddenly wanting nothing to do with the water. Shivering, she toweled off as quickly as she could, then wrapped herself in her bathrobe and sat on the floor with her back to the wall, crying tears of imagined grief... the dream had seemed so real...
. . .
Castle stopped in the middle of the word he was writing and put his head down on the table, both exhausted and upset by his own writing. It was just something he had to do – processing the most terrifying moments of his life by writing through them. He knew the scene had been about Nikki Heat, but it wasn't far outside the realm of possibility. That was the most frightening part.
He realized the way he was sitting was rather painful on the stitches. He sat up slowly, trying to find a position that didn't make it sting like a hornet dipped in lava. He couldn't really find such a position, so he set the pen down and walked around the room in circles, trying to distract himself instead.
As he was pacing around Beckett's apartment, she came down the stairs, wearing fleece pajamas and an NYU sweatshirt. Her hair was down, loose and curly and still wet.
"What are you doing?" she asked, with just a hint of a smile.
Castle shrugged, then winced at the pain he caused himself. "Trying not to feel, I guess," he said.
"Tell me about it," said Beckett.
"I guess you would more than understand, huh?" said Castle.
"I thought you were going to bed," Castle added.
"Don't think I can sleep," said Beckett. "I can hardly doze off for a minute without nightmares," she said. Her voice wavered on the last word. "Castle," she choked. "Please be careful."
"Careful? Of course. Why?"
"Bad enough you're hurt, I don't want you getting—" she stopped, lip quivering, and took a deep breath.
"This is nothing, Beckett," he said. "Just a cut because I tripped. It's not a big deal."
"Yeah," she said, "but if you ever took a bullet..."
"Then I'll just have to wear that vest you hate every day."
Beckett smiled though her tears. "I don't hate that vest," she said. "It's my favorite vest at the precinct. It just wouldn't be much good if you weren't inside it."