A/N: Thank you so much for all your support, guys. Hope you like this one. I'm still debating with myself if I should add a final chapter after this or leave it as it is. You guys tell me.
Disclaimer: If Castle were mine, they would be making babies already.
In the end, Kate felt that coming to Atlanta had been a good thing. As she entered their hotel room, Rick with a comforting arm around her waist, she was thankful for having a chance to… maybe not straighten things out and make amends, but to talk at the very least. Or at least she hoped she would get that chance. She would have never thought she would end her night the way it did and was so very glad for having Rick there with her. She wasn't sure she would've been able to get through this and come out in one piece if it wasn't for him.
When her grandmother approached her at the party, interrupting a very important moment between Kate and her partner, she was annoyed. Jacqueline Black had always done things her way and this was no different. When she heard her name in that unmistakable voice, Kate took a deep breath before turning around to look into her grandmother's eyes, so much like her own, and facing the woman who hadn't even bothered to pick up the phone to call her granddaughter in thirteen years. The last time Kate had seen her had been at her mother's funeral.
"Grandma. Hi." She greeted the woman in a not so friendly voice, almost mimicking the tone Jacqueline had used to greet her.
"You look well." Her grandmother seemed to be doing an appraisal of her looks as her eyes travelled from Kate's hair down to her toes, pausing briefly at Rick's hand resting on her waist.
"Thank you." Kate swallowed and fought the urge to close her eyes and hope she would disappear and end this godforsaken awkward conversation once and for all. "How are you?"
"I'm doing well, Katherine. I hear you're a police officer now." Her tone didn't reflect any pride; instead, it felt like she was ashamed that her granddaughter had chosen such profession.
"Detective, actually. I work for the NYPD." She corrected, her voice tight, the urge to flee in the opposite direction strong. It was sad how she had always gotten this feeling whenever she was in close proximity of her grandmother. The woman had never inspired any affection or love. Not towards her or her father. "This is Rick Castle." She introduced her partner, covering his hand with hers to try and draw some of his strength.
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Black." Rick offered his hand and Jacqueline shook it firmly, giving him a nod before turning back to Kate.
"The writer who follows you around." She lifted an eyebrow and Kate nearly saw a reflection of herself in her grandmother's features. Apparently she couldn't disguise her surprise at her knowing anything about her partnership with Rick because Jacqueline continued. "I know about the books he wrote about you, Katherine. You think I don't know what's going on with my family?"
"Wouldn't surprise me, to be honest." Kate said sincerely and felt him squeeze her hip in a warning. Maybe she shouldn't be so upfront, but now that she had broken the dam it seemed impossible to stop. "I haven't heard from you since mom died. That was thirteen years ago. So yes, I do think you have absolutely no idea what's been going on with me."
"Katherine," the older woman closed her eyes for a moment and let out a heavy sigh. "You have to understand that I have a busy life here." She reasoned and Kate let out a quiet, humorless laugh.
"Yeah, I bet you do." She shook her head and stepped out of Rick's arms, taking his hand in hers. "If you'll excuse us, we have to go now." She turned her back on the woman and tugged her partner by the hand.
She missed when Jacqueline lifted her hand to her head and the moment her grandmother fell to the ground. The commotion around them when people who were nearby started to rush forward in the direction of the Black Widow made her turn around, stifling a gasp when she saw her grandmother's body twitching in what looked like the world's longest seizure. She hadn't gotten far, but as she rushed back to her side, her legs felt like they were made of led as a rush of panic flooded through her veins, nearly clouding her vision in its intensity. When she reached Jacqueline's side, she found Charlie and met the girl's terrified eyes at seeing their own flesh and blood suffering.
Her clouded mind saw her own mother in her grandmother's crumpled form in the ballroom floor and, although she couldn't explain it at the time, she felt tears prickling behind her eyes, the fear she felt at that moment almost overwhelming her.
"I just called an ambulance. They're on their way."
She heard Rick's voice in her ear and turned to find him crouched down right next to her, his eyes brimming with concern. Not trusting her voice, she just nodded and turned back to her grandmother, who had finally stilled. As though it came from a great distance, she heard her Aunt Lizzie's panicked voice and looked up to see people clearing out, giving the family some space. She felt Rick's solid presence by her side and leaned against him, not able to take it anymore as her strength left her body.
The wait for the ambulance seemed endless and Kate only relaxed – albeit not very much so – when she heard the sirens approaching the house. The paramedics soon came bustling in and she felt Rick pull her up to her feet as they quickly worked on her grandmother. She tried to answer as best as she could when they fired question after question at her, but she was still baffled at what had just happened. One moment she had been fine and the next second she was on the floor having a seizure. They strapped her in and Kate swallowed hard against the knot in her throat as they wheeled her out in a gurney. Getting the address of the hospital they were taking her to, she followed Rick's lead as he guided her back to the car by the hand. She vaguely heard him asking if Charlie and Jake needed a ride and before she even registered what was going on, they were all piled up inside the Mercedes as Charlie talked Rick through the way to the hospital.
"What the hell happened back there, Katie?" She heard Charlie ask from the backseat and seemed to finally snap out of the dazed stupor she had been in until then.
"I don't know." She shook her head, discreetly brushing a tear that had started to make its way down her cheek. "She cornered me, like she always does, and we talked. It wasn't pleasant, but it was like it had always been. I got pissed off and walked away. The next thing I know, she was having a seizure."
"Sweet Jesus. I did not see that coming." Her cousin sighed and Kate turned to look at her. "I was coming to rescue you from her clutches when I saw her fall down. Is she sick, Katie? Do you know?" She asked and Kate could hear the tears in her voice. Even though they had never gotten along with Jacqueline Black, she was still their grandmother and Kate could only imagine how hard this was for Charlie, who had grown up with the woman in the same house.
"I have no idea, Charlie. Before tonight, I hadn't seen or talked to her since my mom died, which was a long time ago." She reached out and found the girl's hand in the darkness of the car. "We'll get through this, okay? Take a deep breath." She said gently and felt Rick's hand on her thigh. She looked at him and nodded with a grateful smile. He really was her rock.
After Rick parked the car, they rushed to the hospital's entrance, meeting with a nearly hysterical Aunt Lizzie. Kate approached her, quickly followed by Charlie, who threw herself into her mother's arms.
"Anything?" Kate asked after a moment, sitting down at one of the plastic chairs at the waiting room.
"They haven't told us anything. Just rushed her in and said they would let us know." Aunt Lizzie said tearfully, her mascara smudged, creating dark lines in her cheeks. "I have no idea what's going on. She looked okay just a few minutes ago. You were with her, weren't you, Katie? What happened?"
"I don't know." She swallowed hard again and accepted Rick's hand when he offered, threading her fingers through his. "We were talking and then she was having a seizure." She explained sagged against his side, letting out a breath when he kissed her temple.
Silent took over for the next forty minutes. Aunt Lizzie sat next to Charlie, who was taking comfort in Jake's embrace. The older woman seemed oddly disconnected from them and Kate felt bad for her as she sat there alone. Rick's arms were comforting and she burrowed her face into the crook of his neck for a moment, needing his warmth and strength. His hold on her tightened, his finger doing a lazy dance on her bare arm as she placed a kiss to his skin. Another few minutes passed before she stood up and made her way to the coffee machine around the corner. Slipping the money in, she filled a cup of coffee for her Aunt Lizzie, who was still feeling the effects of all the alcohol she had consumed at the party. The redhead smiled her thanks and took a sip of the hot beverage as Kate returned to her seat.
"You did good." Rick whispered in her ear as his arm fell around her shoulders again. She returned to her previous position and nuzzled his neck, placing another kiss there. "Hanging in there?"
"Yeah." She sighed and pulled away to meet his eyes. "I'm so glad you're here." She confessed and was rewarded with a small smile as he caressed her cheek and pressed his lips to hers. Her love for him wanted to slip out so much at that moment that she had to bite her lip to rein it in.
"Jacqueline Black's family?" A male voice inquired and Kate turned to the sound, standing up immediately when she saw the doctor. "Hi, I'm Dr. Stevens. Mrs. Black is stable now, but we want to keep her overnight for observation. These kinds of seizures like the one she had are very common in people with her condition unfortunately."
"Wait, her condition?" Charlie asked confused and the doctor looked at everyone bewildered. "What do you mean? What's wrong with her?"
"It's in her medical history. She has a glioblastoma multiforme in her brain, but it's inoperable." He explained and Kate felt like someone had just punched her in the stomach.
"What?" She heard her Aunt Lizzie gasp and turned around in time to see her stumble back onto a chair, faint.
"It's in her history. She found out about three months ago. I assumed you guys knew. I'm so sorry." Dr. Stevens apologized, but Kate only heard as if she was underwater and his voice was distorted.
"What… how much longer?" Charlie asked in a small voice and Kate reached out, took the girl's hand in hers. Mixed feelings were battling for dominance inside her and an overwhelming urge to cry was threatening to take over.
"Well, when she got the results, her prognosis was another six months, maybe less." He ran a hand through his hair and Kate could tell he was uncomfortable and feeling guilty for breaking the news to a family like this.
"Oh, my god." Charlie's sob rang out in the deserted waiting room as she turned around and threw herself into Jake's arms. Kate didn't know what to think, what to do or how to react.
"I'm really sorry." The doctor repeated and Kate nodded, swallowing hard, the knot in her throat making it hard for her to breathe. "She's conscious now if you want to see her. Only one at a time, though, so she won't get agitated."
Kate heard him give them directions to the room she had been taken to and Aunt Lizzie saying she wanted to see her, but she didn't pay attention as Rick's arms enveloped her and she allowed herself to sink into his embrace, her arms wrapping around his waist tightly.
Her grandmother was dying.
"Kate?" His voice whispered in her ear and she swallowed hard again, trying to take a deep breath.
"She's going to die." Her voice came out shaky when the only thing that seemed to register in her mind slipped out.
"I know, love. I'm so sorry." He murmured and rested his forehead on hers, his thumb brushing a stray tear away. The endearment registered in a distant part of her brain, but she wasn't able to focus on that right now.
Her grandmother was going to die.
"I don't…" She started, but had to take a few deep breaths before continuing. "I don't understand. Why didn't she tell anyone?"
"I guess she didn't want us to worry." Charlie told her and Kate reached for her, pulling the girl into a hug.
They may have only just reconnected, but Charlie was probably the only person who could understand the contradiction of feelings warring in her heart right now. Jacqueline Black had never been a caring person towards her granddaughters, but she was still their grandmother. She was still Kate's only link to her own mother and, even though Kate had hated her for abandoning her after her mom died, deep down she had always wanted to understand what happened and maybe reconnect with her only living grandmother.
"Oh, Katie what are we going to do?" The girl whispered, her voice muffled by Kate's shoulder, and Kate bit her lip. She didn't know. "We may have had our differences, but I don't want her to die." Kate felt another wave of tears escape her eyes silently and just held her young cousin tightly.
"We need to be strong for her now." She said quietly, pulling away to meet Charlie's eyes. "It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Not now. We're her only family and she needs us." She brushed away her tears with the back of her hand. "Do you think we can do that?" She asked and Charlie nodded, brushing away her own tears. "Are you going to go see her?"
"I don't know. Mom is probably staying with her. Guess I'll just peek in and tell her I'll come back in the morning." Charlie sniffled and accepted the glass of water Rick handed her. Kate smiled at him and accepted hers as well.
"That's a good plan. Where are you guys staying? We can give you a ride." She asked and her cousin said the name of a hotel close to the one she was staying with Rick.
She let Charlie go in and tell her mother she was leaving with Katie and they would be back in the morning. Kate stayed at the door and asked her Aunt if she needed them to bring something for her. Jacqueline was sleeping, thank god. It may have been cowardly of Kate, but she wasn't ready to face her grandmother just yet. Not when the guilt of putting her in the hospital in the first place was weighing on her. Aunt Lizzie just asked to bring her a change of clothes in the morning; she was fine for now.
They said their goodbyes and left the room. The ride to Charlie's hotel was silent and Kate only broke it when Rick parked in front of the building and she got out to give her little cousin a comforting hug.
"We're in this together, okay?" She murmured in the girl's ear and felt her nod against her shoulder as Charlie was almost as tall as Kate. She gave Jake a quick hug as well and got back in the car.
The five-minute drive to their hotel was made in silence. Rick handed the keys to the valet and took Kate's hand in his, leading her to the elevator. They didn't speak, but she couldn't bring herself to step even an inch away from him. Right now, he was her strength and she needed to feel him right next to her. They made their way to the room and he unlocked the door, guiding Kate in with a hand on the small of her back. She took her shoes off and dropped some good four inches without her heels. Once her bare feet met the floor, he pulled her into his arms and they stood there in silence for a few minutes, her head on his chest.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He whispered after a few minutes and she shook her head. "Okay, anything I can do?" He pressed his lips to her temple and she sighed.
"I don't know. I don't even know what to think right now." She shook her head and pulled away from him. "I just… I can't believe this happened. She's never been there for me, but she's my grandma, you know? I can't… I don't want her to die."
"I know, love. I know." He brushed her hair back and kissed her softly. "I'm so sorry about your grandma." She wrapped her arms around his waist and breathed him in.
"I don't know what I would've done if you weren't here." She murmured against his chest and felt him tighten his hold on her. Then she pulled away slightly. "You called me love." She said with a small, curious grin and his eyes widened. "That's the second time you do that."
"Um…" She watched as he swallowed trying to think of what to say. "It slipped out?" He said sheepishly, but it came out like a question and she lifted an eyebrow at him. "We can talk about this later, Kate. I don't…" He took a deep breath. "I mean, yes, I love you, but I didn't-" He stumbled on his words, but she silenced him with a deep kiss. When she pulled away, he saw something in her eyes that made him smile so big that she knew they were okay.
"I'm going to go take a quick shower and then we can go to bed." She told him and pressed a gentle kiss to his bottom lip. He nodded dazedly and she smiled, stealing a quick peck and then made her way to the bathroom.
After taking a quick shower, she lay down in bed and started flipping through the hundreds of channels on TV while he got ready for bed in the bathroom. She heard the shower turn off and felt her heart skip a beat. There were so many conflicting emotions running through her right now that she didn't even know which one to focus on.
He told her he loved her.
Maybe it was a little too soon considering they had been officially together for only a few hours. But if she was honest with herself, they had been in a relationship for at least this past year; they just hadn't realized it. The only difference now was that they were aware of the other's feelings and whatever it was he saw in her eyes after he uttered those three little words reassured him enough that he didn't pressure her.
Turning off the TV, she turned on her side and closed her eyes, waiting for him to get out of the bathroom. Her mind was running at the speed of light and she doubted she would sleep anytime soon. But if he was there with her, at least she could start to try to relax. A few minutes later, she felt the bed dip under his weight and was glad that he felt comfortable enough to get in bed with her without any questions. She scooted over to make room for him and sighed when his arm came to rest on her waist, pulling her to his chest. She turned around in his arms and burrowed her face in the crook of his neck, kissing his skin.
"Do you want me to stay here?" He asked quietly and she nodded. He pushed her back for a moment to kiss her lips. "Night, Kate." She could barely see his smile in the darkness, but answered with one for own, kissing him again.
"Hey, Rick?" She whispered after a few minutes of silence. He mumbled an acknowledgment and she smiled at how sleepy he sounded. "I love you too."