Title: More Than This
Disclaimer: What are you, daffy?
Summary: He really has to wonder how it is that they end up in these situations. It's like they're magnets for near-death.
"At some point, you have to ask: why is it always us?" Castle sighs, sinking down against the wall next to her, where Kate is already curled up, arms hugging her knees, head pillowed in the hollow between her legs and body.
"Honestly. What did you do in a previous life?" she asks, turning to give him a small smile. But he can see the strain behind the gesture, the worry. They've been in enough of these damn situations for him to be able to read her like a book.
And so he falls back on what they know, tries to inject some normalcy into an otherwise bleak situation. "Con artist?"
She huffs out a laugh. "Sociopath?"
He scowls at her, bumps her shoulder with his where they're already pressed together. They've also given up with trying to keep away from each other. It never does them any good, and it's so much easier to avoid reality with the distraction of her body against his.
"I think I'm insulted."
"Why? I'd think you'd want a really good motive."
"I know it's an occupational hazard, but I like to think even you are above thinking I was a murderer in another life," he shoots back, watching as she presses her lips together to keep from laughing.
"You're right. I'm sorry."
She doesn't sound sorry at all. "What about you?" he asks, turning the tables. "What did you do in a previous life? You can't think it's just my rotten luck that gets us into these things."
"I could," she counters, smirking as he frowns at her in the dim light. "But I think it would be this life—retribution for my terrible teens, maybe."
"Oh, come now, I don't think anything you put your folks through warrants this," he chides, reaching out to touch her arm as her face turns back to wistful, as her eyes begin to whir behind her irises. He can almost see the thoughts sweeping across her brain.
She shrugs but doesn't dislodge his arm, and he watches as she squints around the tiny, dirty space. "How long do you think we've been down here?"
"Too long," he grumbles automatically. He sits up a bit straighter as she levels her 'not now, Castle' look on him. He knows that one so well—sees it almost every day.
"Maybe an hour," he says seriously. He wishes he was wearing his watch, that this one time, he hadn't left his phone in the car—a rare, random occurrence to be sure.
"We told Gates where we were going," she offers a minute later, but her voice is quiet, and the room is quickly becoming stifling, not with heat, but with the realization that they're well and truly trapped.
"They'll find the phone, or the car, you know," he says optimistically.
She nods, and they fall silent, listening to each other breathe, staring at the four feet of space in front of them—at the dingy, dank concrete walls and cinderblock, at the floor. He doesn't really want to think about what might be on the floor with them.
"How often do tunnels cave in, anyway?" he asks, glancing back at her to find her with her head against the wall, eyes closed, chest rising and falling more rapidly than before.
"Don't know," she lets out. He feels her arm tighten under his.
"You okay?" he prompts, his voice soft but still loud against the little room—the silent little room that they dove into, only to realize that they were well and truly stuck. Still, trapped is better than buried alive.
She shrugs and turns her head towards him, opening her eyes, blinking. "Will we run out of air?" she wonders, and now he sees it, the pallor to her face, the bags beneath her eyes, the true and palpable fear she can no longer hide brimming under the surface.
He wants to say no. He wants to believe that somehow, the little vent at the top of the room is connected to more vents, and more, until they reach the street. He wants to believe that it was just a small section of roof caving in, not the whole abandoned tunnel. He wants to believe that they're really just stuck, caught in an unfortunate minor collapse, and the boys will simply be able to climb over the rubble, move some cement, and set them free.
"I…don't think so," he decides, and he can see the skepticism on her face. "There's a vent," he adds, going for a shred of credibility.
"Too small to escape through," she says.
"I wouldn't want to risk it anyway," he agrees. "Who knows how stable it is."
"Did you have any idea we were walking into a subway station?"
He shakes his head, trying to remember exactly how they'd ended up here. There'd been a long staircase in the basement of the abandoned building where they'd found the body. So they'd followed a trail of bloody prints down, down, down. They were wearing vests, and she'd had her gun out, and just as he'd found a switch, illuminating the wide expanse of abandoned tunnel, there'd been gunfire.
They dove to the ground, more rounds went off, Kate fired back. And then the rumble had come. Pieces began smashing down around them, falling from the ceiling, echoing in cacophonous booms as they hit the platform and ricocheted away. He'd seen this door and they'd scrambled up. He'd all but thrown her in before him, letting her tug him inside after her, hands clasped tightly, panting, terrified.
A final bang had sounded as the door slammed shut, and then everything was muffled, falling rubble pinging against the heavy metal. He'd found the light switch to the dim, single, uncovered bulb that wavered from the center of the ceiling in this little room.
Their vests had been tossed off long ago, and lay in a heap near the door. She still has her glock—God knows how she'd hung onto that—but it's holstered now. He won't come back for them. He'll just leave them there. To die? To suffocate? To rot?
What if no one can access the tunnel? What if Esposito and Ryan don't look in the basement? What if no one finds the abandoned platform? What if this is how they die?
He snaps his gaze back to hers. "Hmm?"
"You okay?" she asks, her voice pulling him out of that downward spiral.
At least with the tiger they'd had something to do. But here, with nothing but the grimy walls and the cramped space to comfort them, the wait is starting to wear at him, just as it is with her.
"Yeah," he provides, when he realizes that he hasn't answered her question. "Just thinking."
"Dangerous pastime for you," she says immediately. It's funny, how they do this for each other—try to bolster each other when things get bleak.
He nudges her and she laughs quietly. A moment later, a warm weight settles on his shoulder, and he realizes with a jolt that she's leaning her head against him, sighing quietly, one of her hands relinquishing her legs to wrap around his arm. He actually has to work diligently to stay still—to not jump for joy, or shock, or some mangled combination of the two.
"You're warm," she offers about a minute too late.
He wonders if he's unsettled her with his silence, and, lacking anything substantial, he tentatively turns his head to press his lips to her forehead.
He waits, eyes closed, but the reprimand never comes. There's just the breathy exhale from the woman currently wrapped around his arm. He lets himself open his eyes, take her in. She really has no business being so beautiful after everything they've just gone through. She honestly has no business being so beautiful at all, but he's not complaining.
She has a cut across her cheek that he hasn't noticed before and there's more than one smudge on her face. A quick glance to the hand wound around his elbow proves that her extremities are as beaten up as his—slightly bloody and full of filth.
"You in any pain?" he asks, though it's not like he can doing anything about it if she is.
"Cheek stings," she offers honestly. That floors him a little; she rarely, if ever, admits to pain. "You?"
"Hand's not great," he admits, lifting his right hand for her to see. The gash is surface level, but it smarts. The past hour has dulled him to it, but he realizes that if they're stuck there, these little cuts will become big problems. The room's not exactly clean.
She reaches out with her free hand, gently wrapping her fingers around his and pulling his arm across his chest so she can see the back of his palm. She's quiet for a minute and he has to sort the pain from the shocks of pleasure shooting up his arm from the gentle ministrations of her finger.
He likes to consider himself a well-traveled man, but there's something about Kate Beckett that makes even the simple act of handholding a heightened experience, setting his heart at a faster clip, making him heat up. Then again, maybe that's just her body against his. It's not warm in this little cell of theirs.
"No stitches," she determines, squeezing the muscle beneath his thumb gently. His arm nearly goes limp at the feeling.
"Good," he murmurs.
"We should start carrying a first aid kit," she says with a small huff that almost sounds like a laugh. "I want to clean this."
"I'll live," he says easily and her breath hitches. He lets his head fall back against the wall, closing his eyes. Stupid thing to say, really.
"I certainly hope so," she replies, matching his tone, though he can hear the under current there. "It'd be a pity to get out and have to tell everyone you died from male ego disorder."
He turns his head and narrows his eyes. "Are you saying I'm overly dramatic?"
She raises an eyebrow. "Are you saying you're not?"
"I have a flair for life," he protests.
"Yeah, that rivals your mother's."
"Ouch, Beckett, that stings," he groans. She drops his hand hastily and he bites back a sigh. "The jab, not the cut. Well, the cut too," he adds sheepishly. "But that's not your fault."
"How do we end up in these situations?" she says, laughing quietly. "It's ridiculous."
He nods in agreement and feels her cheek meet his shoulder again. Her breath puffs against the cotton of his shirt. He wishes he'd just worn his coat into the building. The unseasonably warm weather goaded him into leaving it behind, with his phone, and keys, and anything else that could possibly have helped them out.
They fall silent for a long while, listening to the stillness around them. He'd almost rather hear banging outside the room, even if it meant more men with guns. At least it would be out of this room. Because as their silence stretches on, his visions become bleaker and bleaker. He can't watch her starve to death, doesn't want to hold her as she falls into a weak sleep, never to wake again. Doesn't want to sit with her dead body, ravenous and hallucinating from dehydration.
And all of that would take only a few days, if that. With no water, it could be less for her, even. She's got nothing on her, and even the muscle she's built back up from the summer won't be enough to keep her going for that long. And if it didn't mean he'd outlast her, he'd be rather glad for the few extra pounds he's picked up.
He feels her shifting next to him, moving around to get comfortable, if that's even possible. She hisses a moment later and he's practically ready to break his face trying to break down the door before her hand tightens around his arm.
"My foot's asleep," she says, her voice teasing, as if she knows what just ran through his head. She really needs to not make those sounds. He's already jumpy.
She presses closer for a moment before releasing him to pull herself up the wall. He watches, mystified, until she begins to hobble around the room, face clenched against the pins and needles, hands fisted at her sides, grimacing.
He can't help it. He laughs. She shoots him a death glare and takes an unnecessarily large step. She groans aloud with the feeling and he laughs harder.
"Castle," she exclaims.
"Sorry, sorry," he says, holding up his hands. It's really not that funny, but it's a damn lot better to watch than the visions of her dead in his mind.
She lets out her own laugh, death stare melting into amusement and she shifts back and forth on her feet, chasing the last of the tingles away. She looks down at him, unguarded and open, almost relaxed, though he can read her tension in the way she holds her hips just a bit too straight, the way her hands twitch every few seconds.
"I don't suppose you've got cards, or something," she says softly.
He shakes his head regretfully. "And your phone's battery died a while ago, didn't it?"
She sighs. "You distracted me in the car. I meant to charge it."
"Blame me, of course," he says with more bravado than he needs. She kicks his foot lightly in response. "Happens," he adds.
She shakes her head and glances to the spot beside him. He wishes he had his jacket now so he could give her a cushion. She's so thin, angular, and he loves that about her—loves the smooth curve of her shoulders, the jut of her cheekbones, the prominent angles of her body that smooth into small, becoming curves. But here, it means she has less to separate her from the cold floor and stiff walls.
And she'd probably kill him for thinking it at all, but he wants to make her comfortable. Sure, they're stuck in the same situation, but he can help her, and she must know that it helps him to help her. They don't talk about a lot of things, but he always assumes she understands that taking care of her, watching out for her, being her partner—it keeps him going.
But offering to be her pillow? Offering her the vee of his legs, the support of his chest, seems like going a bit too far. But she's staring down at him and they're stuck in this room together, and they might never get out, and hell, that's enough to get to hold her for a few hours at least.
He spreads his legs and settles closer to the wall before hesitantly opening an arm with a small smile. She just stares at him, impassive, eyes flicking through too many emotions to keep track of, but then she moves. She steps closer, turns around, sits down between his legs, and he's not sure he's even breathing anymore.
But his arms have their own plans, and soon she's pressed against his chest, his arms well and securely wrapped around her. Her hands fall to his forearms and after a pause, when the shock of this contact sinks in, she relaxes into him, her head falling back against his shoulder.
She's warm and soft beneath his hands, flush with his chest, and at another time, in another place, it might stir feelings beyond contentment and affection, but here and now, he's just glad she's there and letting him hang onto her. Though, if the grip she has on his arms is any indication, she's hanging onto him as well.
Her breath cascades across his throat and he turns his head toward her slightly, feeling the top of her cheek against his. "Warmer?" he asks, because it's the only thing his brain can come up with.
She hums. "Yeah." He thinks he can hear a smile with the words, but he can't really tell, and doesn't really care. She's boneless against him, and so achingly soft and warm.
He almost regrets that it's taken another situation like this to hold her this way, but he's holding her this way, and it's hard to care about the whys and hows. It's hard to care about the murder boards and things unspoken, or rather, unheard. Because right now, he has her in his arms, lips pulsing warm air onto his neck, hands stroking up and down his forearms. And that's enough.
They stay that way for a long time, and just as he's about to mention a moment with his mother earlier in the week—something, anything to keep their spirits up—there's a bang above them. A piercing screech follows and the ceiling dents inward, strong steel bending, convex, jutting out from what was once a strong roof above their heads.
He gasps and she shrieks, both of them tensing around each other, her hands a vice on his arms, his clutching at her hard enough he's worried he'll bruise her. That is, of course, if the ceiling doesn't fall and bury, crush, smash them to bits.
They wait, staring at the ceiling, gasping for breath, scared shitless. He can't loosen his grip on her and realizes his legs have bent, as if that would protect her, them, keep either of them alive. The light bulb swings on its cable, casting a stilted, swinging yellow over their prison.
"Rick," she whispers, voice hoarse and tight.
"It's okay. It's not moving…anymore," he hedges, too terrified to fully appreciate her use of his first name.
"And how long will that last?" she asks, her voice caught somewhere between harsh and horrified. The sound makes his chest clench, because this time he has no bright idea, no brilliant plan to save them. The door won't open, and there's no way out. The vent's a smashed mess now, though he sees some slits there; at least they won't suffocate.
"I don't know," he replies, wishing he had something better.
She takes a few shallow breaths and he loosens his hold on her, hoping to help her breathe. Her hands stay on his arms, and one slides down to find his fingers. Hers push between his, holding on, threading them together in a grip that's nothing like romantic and everything like scared and worried and wishing.
"I told you I thought I'd take a bullet," she begins and he finds himself clutching her tightly again, breathing be damned. "And I did," she laughs, a slightly hysterical sound. "And I lived."
"Quite well, too," he offers, pressing his face into her hair at the side of her head. She's no longer leaning against his shoulder, rather pressed against him, her head up and alert, waiting.
"And then there was the bank heist, and the tiger, and the sniper, and still, I lived."
He doesn't know quite where she's going with it, but he's not sure he wants to hear the rest. Just the list of every way she could have died, they could have died, this past year is enough. And that's forgetting all the times they nearly died, she nearly blew up, they almost froze in years past.
"I never thought we'd end up here," she continues, her voice quiet, so soft that he strains to hear it. "There's always more time, but then something…" she trails off and turns, shifting in his arms.
He lets her, now desperate to see her face, gauge her reaction to the falling ceiling, see whatever it is she can't seem to express, read it on her face. When she turns in his arms, kneeling on the damp, cold floor, his breath stalls for a second.
Her face is ashen, pulled tight with panic and sadness and fear, and it takes everything he has not to simply crush her to him—to cradle her head in his hand and promise that everything will be alright, because he needs to see her smiling again. He wants to see her in the daylight again, wants to have time to convince her to take a chance on him, to wake up with him one day when they're old. Wants so many things, so much, with her.
She searches his face for a long moment, raising a hand to run it through his hair and down to cup his cheek. It should feel new and startling, but there's something about the way she's looking at him that makes it seem right, and normal.
And again, he hates that it took this to get there, but if they do get out, if this isn't the last thing he ever gets to see on earth, he'll hold her to it. Hell, he'll just hold her—maybe in a park, somewhere without a ceiling, with light, even if it's dark outside. On the roof of his loft, maybe. They could bring his bedspread up. With enough quilts it wouldn't be too cold.
"I don't want to die in here," she whispers, her voice raw and ragged.
Her words snap him back and he sighs, running one hand down her back to settle against the little hollow above her hips while he twines his other with the hand she's bolstered on his shoulder. "I don't want to either."
"I want to send you home to your kid," she whispers, thumb stroking his cheek.
"I want to take you home to my kid," he says honestly, because what's the use in keeping it from her now?
He sees a jolt of surprise pass over her face before she smiles. "I'd like that," she admits.
He tugs her closer so that they're face to face. She sinks on her knees to put them at eye-level and he leans forward to rest his forehead against her, bringing her knuckles to his lips as he closes his eyes to breathe her in. She smells sweet, a hint of cherries—a scent he hasn't noticed on her in a while—and sweat. The breath against his lips is reminiscent of the coffees he brought to the station that morning, just like any other day.
The quiet around them is broken by another screech as the ceiling sinks further, another jut bulging out at the far side of the room. She closes her eyes and bites at her lip, the skin around her teeth turning white. He can barely breathe between the unguarded terror on her face and his own fear. He pulls her into his chest, brings his free hand up to cradle her head, presses his lips to her forehead as her head falls forward.
He glances at the ceiling, scoping out the damage. They're seated in the middle of the wall, and the bulge is sinking in the middle of the ceiling, the other depression forming along the far end of the room. If it does cave, maybe there's the chance that it will slant, rather than completely falling in.
And he has to cling to that, because the woman trembling in his arms is everything, and he wants to take her home to his daughter. He wants to take her home, and hug the crap out of his kid, and kiss his mother's cheek. He wants to sink into a bath with this woman, even if they've never seen each other naked. He doesn't care. Anything. Something. A future that's a minute, or a second beyond this room and this terrible fate.
And so he pushes her back from his chest and waits until she opens her eyes. "We need to be in that corner," he says, hoping his voice is somewhere near steady.
It's not. He can tell, and she can tell, but she nods anyway. She stands and helps him up, letting him guide them into the corner of the doorway, where the room is just a hint narrower—half a foot, maybe. But he hopes that the slight change will keep the overhead above them, above them.
He backs himself into the corner, bringing her with him, and then he sits. She follows, unsure of how to situate herself until he gives in and hauls her into his lap, sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding the love of his life as she wraps her arm around his neck, the other coming to rest over his heart. The door swings outward, so, if anyone is looking for them, they'll be able to get out, if…he stops.
"I want," she begins, eyes closed as her hand smooths over his shirt, now well and truly filthy.
"I know," he murmurs, because he wants the same—wants the time to say and do things without knowing it might, very well might, be their last.
"I'm sorry," she says, stronger, opening her eyes to meet his.
"Kate," he protests, shaking his head. Who cares about anything now? Sorry? He loves her, and they might die together in the next hour.
"I heard you," she admits. It sends a small shockwave down his spine, to finally hear her admit it. But he's known. He's dealt with the hurt, realized why she did it, found a way to understand, to forgive. "And I just wanted—I thought there was more time," she sighs.
He leans forward and finds her lips, silencing her protests. She surges to him, hand clutching at the back of his neck, mouth warm and strong and fluid against his. He gently sucks on her bottom lip and she sighs into his mouth, breath hot against his cheek.
It's not frantic. It's not furious. It's passionate, yes, but there's an aching sadness attached that pulls at his heart, because he didn't want just one kiss in a tiny, collapsing, abandoned subway station room. He wanted years and a life, and things he's never truly wanted with anyone else.
They break apart as another thud shakes the room, the ceiling in the center of the room depressing with an unearthly piercing screech. He figures the metal is probably tearing. Whatever's above them is crumbling and pressing their small refuge into a pancake. But the ceiling directly over them doesn't move, and he lets out a small breath, hopeful, absurdly hopeful. For another hour? Another 30 minutes?
"I love you," she gasps out, raising her head from his shoulder, where she'd hidden, lips pressed to his throat, muffling a scream. "Terrible timing, I know," she adds, with a small smile, despite the sounds, despite the flickering light that's bound to go out any second.
"You get a pass," he tells her before pressing his lips to her nose. "I love you," he scratches out.
"I know," she whispers and he feels a tear hit his thumb where he's cradling her cheek.
He leans in to kiss it away. "We'll be okay," he whispers, though they both know it's a lie.
The light dies on them then, pitching them into blackness, with no way to see the ceiling, with no way to know what's up or down. He groans and she whimpers, pressing her face to his. He's terrified, and knows she is too, but he's never heard Kate Beckett make a noise like that.
"I have this dream," she mumbles into his cheek.
"This dream?" he wonders, focused on her, because otherwise there's nothing to hold onto, nothing to hold on for.
"Where I'm buried alive, crushed. Coffin, room, hole," she rattles off, breaking his heart into pieces. "I don't know why. Burke says something about feeling trapped, but I, it…"
"The reasons don't matter," he provides and she nods against him. "Frequently?"
"Once a week, at least," she admits as another rumble rips through the room.
It's not above them, he thinks. But now he can't know. He has the irrational urge to push her to the floor and lie on top of her. But then it would be his own body that crushes her, and he doesn't know that he could do it, even if it gave her that extra minute—wouldn't want to put her through it, make her feel him die on top of her body.
Another bombastic rattle jolts the room. He clutches her against him, feeling her fingers tensed at the back of his neck, digging into his flesh.
"I'd rather take another bullet," she breathes, her voice shaking. She's not crying, but she will be soon if they can't get out.
"Don't say that," he says automatically, his voice almost harsh. He regrets it immediately, can't believe he's snapped at her. But the images it conjures, of her on the grass, her blood slipping through his fingers—her lips press against his cheek and he deflates. "Kate," he rasps.
"I'm sorry, Castle," she whispers.
"For almost dying, for cutting you out, for being stuck in this damn place with the ceiling caving in on us," she rants, voice shaking but defiant.
"Don't be sorry," he says, leaning in to press another kiss to her lips.
He misses in the dark and she gives a breathy laugh that warms him to his toes. He finds her mouth and tries to prove to her how much she means to him, how much he loves her, how much everything, from the pain to the joy, has meant.
"We get out of here," he begins, trying to make it sound more like a certainty than a frail stab at hope. "I'm taking you to the Hamptons. Take a few days off."
He expects her to hesitate, to weigh her options, but she merely nods her forehead against his. "Sounds nice."
He feels himself smile. "Not really bathing suit weather, though."
"You've seen me in a swimsuit," she says, voice somewhere between teasing and tender.
"I plan to see you in far less than a swimsuit," he replies, giving himself the moment of boldness, because she loves him, and he loves her, and if they're really about to die, he can admit that he wants her in every way possible.
"We'll see, Mister Castle," she simpers.
He laughs and feathers his lips over hers, both of them smiling too much to really kiss. He hopes they get the chance to go to the Hamptons, to spend days lost in each other. He wants the chance to kiss every place on her body, to sooth her scars and light her on fire, to worship the woman in his lap until she's a melted puddle of want and love and lust.
And he's sure she wants the same, from him, for him. He knows it in the way her lips skate up his cheek to press at the corner of his eye, in the way she breathes against his skin, helping him make a bubble for them that's all theirs, that even the metal and rubble and crushing dread can't burst.
"I just want to see the sunlight with you," she admits a few minutes later.
He's the writer. He's the one with the words. But she's stolen them from him, and all he can do is nod and clutch her to him in the dark, because she's said it all for him—everything, anything, always.
And then there's a clatter outside just as the ceiling screeches and groans, dangerously close to them, dangerously low in the darkness.
"Hello?" he calls out, listening, his ear pressed to the door as she shifts in his lap, bringing her fist up to the door.
"Hello!" she yells, slamming her battered hand against the heavy metal. "In here!"
"Help us!" he adds, throwing his own fist, the injured one—but he hardly cares—against the door, joining her. "Hello!"
They keep screaming and banging, and he hopes that they're not making the ceiling fall faster, but the sounds outside are louder now, more concrete. Actually, it sounds like someone moving concrete, shifting it.
"Help us, please!" Kate calls, her voice hoarse, one hand clutching his shoulder as the other pounds at the door in tandem with his.
"Esposito!" she screams, joyous, relieved. And the ceiling above them groans. "Hurry!"
"We're coming!" Ryan calls back.
"Ceiling's caving in!" Castle adds, gripping her waist as the rumble above them grows louder.
"Please," she yells, and he hears the terror in her voice.
He leans forward to wrap himself fully around her where she's kneeling in front of him. He rises to his knees and she falls into his chest. The boys are out there; they don't have to keep banging. Her lips tremble against his cheek as the room fills with more ripping metal and the sound of chunks of something slowly crunching down toward them.
"Sunlight," he repeats in her ear, over and over, because it's all he can think beyond, 'I love you, I love you, I love you.'