(the end.)

He heard it again, this time the voice louder.


The voice was coming from his side. Rick turned quickly to try and find the source, wincing at the sudden movement. He tried to shift where he was lying down, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"Hey," he finally found her, focused in on her face to see her smiling at him. He vaguely noticed her other hand hovering over a table by his bedside. The hand on his shoulder moved to his forehead, brushing some of his hair off of his brow, "How are you feeling?"

He groaned, "Like I just got hit with a bus."

Kate gave him a sad smile.

"The doctor should be in here soon. They'll give you something for the pain."


He took in his surroundings: the harsh, white light, the uncomfortable bed, the different, but not altogether unpleasant draft he was currently experiencing.

Oh, he was in a hospital.

But why –

Oh, right.

They had been working the case, the princess killer. Someone was murdering face actresses from various companies around the city, the kind of girls who get paid to go to birthday parties and pretend to be Cinderella and Snow White. It wasn't until they dug deeper, that they uncovered the prostitution ring.

Which explained the dream.

His musings were cut off as he heard his hospital door open, a woman dressed in a lab coat over scrubs walking in.

"Good evening, Mr. Castle," she said, "I'm glad to see you're awake. I'm Dr. Tompkins."

Rick nodded, "How long have I been out?"

"Only a few hours," Dr. Tompkins said, moving over to check his vitals, shining a light in his eye, "Do you remember anything?"

"Bits and pieces," he admitted.

Dr. Tompkins nodded. She moved over towards the edge of the bed and picked up his chart.

"Well, Mr. Castle, you have a few bruised ribs, and some stitches over the knife wound on your arm. And you suffered a minor concussion after you hit the ground," Dr. Tompkins looked up at him and smiled, "But you'll be fine. We're looking to release you early tomorrow afternoon."

"Thank you, Dr. Tompkins," Kate said.

Dr. Tompkins smiled at her, "If you need anything at all, just hit the call button," she gestured towards the table next to his bed, no doubt referring to the button Kate pressed to call her in there to begin with, "Someone will be in a little while later to check in on him."

Kate nodded, and Rick attempted to smile, and Dr. Tompkins left the room, shutting the door quietly behind her.

"I had the weirdest dream," Rick said after a moment, squeezing his eyes shut to try and keep out the light from the hospital.

"Doesn't surprise me," Kate murmured, a smile clear in her voice, "With your imagination? I can only imagine what 6 hours of drug induced sleep would do to your thoughts."

He felt the mattress shift underneath him and opened his eyes. Kate had sat down on the edge of the bed by his knees.

"So what really happened?" he asked, "I heard the PG version from the doc. I want the dirty details."

"The dirty details, huh?" Kate said, chuckling a little before she sobered up and got serious. "Do you remember the warehouse?" At Rick's nod, she continued, "You, me, Ryan, and Esposito all went in with our vests. We thought maybe we'd run into 1 or 2 of the suspects. Didn't expect there to be 10 of them waiting for us… They got the jump on us, but we took most of them down. But we didn't see the guy hiding behind the wall."

Rick flinched, the memories coming back as she told him the story.

"He got the drop on me and we fought for a little until you found me and helped."

"Looks like I didn't do all that great," Rick mumbled, looking pointedly at the bruise under her eye.

"The guy got a good punch in," She agreed, before giving him a small smile, "but I got in two."

"Any other injuries I should be aware of?" he asked, concerned.

Kate shrugged, "Just a rolled ankle. But that's taped up and nearly as good as new."

She looked at him, a small smile making its way onto her lips, her hand resting on his knee.

"We make quite a pair don't we?"

He smiled at her before shifting over on the bed, grunting a little as his ribs protested.

"Careful," Kate cautioned.

"I'm fine," Rick said between clenched teeth. Once he was situated, he patted the spot by his hip.

"Come up here," Rick said, "You're too far away down there."

Kate hesitated.

"For me?" he whispered, before changing tactics, "Be kind to me, I'm injured."

She rolled her eyes, but stood up from her place and moved to sit down on the bed directly beside him.

She picked up his hand not attached to the IV and started playing with his fingers.

"You've got to stop doing that," Kate said softly, not looking at him.

"What?" he asked, not following her train of thought.

"Being willing to die for me."

His eyes snapped open, now fully alert.

"I won't apologize for that."

Kate huffed, "You jumped in front of someone with a knife, Rick."

"Because he was going to stab you, Kate."

"But I'm –"

"Don't tell me you're a cop," he said, "I know you are. But me protecting you? That isn't going to change. It wasn't going to stop me when I started out as your partner, and it's certainly not going to stop now that you're my girlfriend."

She gave him that twisted smile of hers, the one where she's desperately trying to smother it but she just can't so she tries to turn it into a grimace of sorts, but her eyes give her away every time.

Even after nearly 8 months of being together, 8 months of fights and disagreements and sharing beds and pure bliss, even after all that time he knows that Kate Beckett still gets those little, girly, butterflies in her stomach when he calls her his girlfriend.

He knows… because he still gets them too when she calls him her boyfriend.

Although… he thinks his are more like the rumble of an engine. Butterflies aren't manly enough for him. When she claims him, it's like the rev of her motorcycle. God it really gets him -

She leaned over, effectively cutting off his thoughts mid-ramble, pressing a soft kiss against his lips.

"I'm so glad you're okay."

He hummed into her kiss.

"And I'm glad you're alright," he responded. He lifted his hand still twined with hers, bringing it up to her uninjured cheek.

"You look tired."

She shrugged, "So do you."

He shifted slightly in his bed until there was enough room for her to lie down next to him.

"Come on," he said, trying to tug her down next to him.

She resisted.

"Castle, no…" she chided.

"Please?" he whispered.

She shook her head, "I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't," he assured her with a smile, "This is my good side."

She still looked doubtful.

"We both need our rest," he said softly, squeezing her hand, "And you know I sleep better when you're here."

He saw her eyes soften and knew he had her so he tugged on her hand again, pulling her down towards the bed.

She settled down next to him, her good cheek pressed against his good shoulder, her arm lying lightly on top of his chest, hardly putting pressure on him at all. He wrapped his good arm around her waist, tugging her closer to him.

He sighed happily.

"That's better."

"You know a nurse is just going to come in and wake you up in the next hour right?"

"Then we better start sleeping soon," he retorted, brushing a kiss against her hair. Her felt her smile against his shoulder.

"Kate?" he asked a moment later.

"Hm?" she mumbled.

"If you were a queen, would you marry a troubadour?"

She shifted slightly, looking up and raising an eyebrow at him.

"My dream," he elaborated.

"Ah…" Kate said, nodding once, as if that explained everything, settling back down onto his shoulder.

For a moment he thought she wasn't going to answer.

"If I loved him? If he took care of me and made me smile? Then yes, I think I would marry a troubadour."

He hummed, clearly content with her answer. He let his eyes slide shut, the exhaustion and pain medicine drawing him back closer to sleep.

"But it's a moot point anyway," she said.

"How is that?" he asked sleepily.

"Oh come on, Castle…" she said, her voice teasing.

He could tell he was smirking at him without opening his eyes.

"We both know that you think of yourself as a king."

(Well… that's it.
['Twas the plan right from the start.
I tried about 6 different endings, but the only one I was happy with was this]
This started out as a present for two friends [who had a cameo, if you didn't recognize Erin and Kris (and Dr. Tompkins at the end is another friend)] which turned into a character study to see if I could essentially take every main character and place them in a world completely unlike the one they already exist in, and still keep them in character as much as possible.
I think I did alright.
It was fun, really it was. Throwing all those references in there, going back and trying to incorporate things from past episodes… It made me smile.
This story was supposed to be like… 10 chapters. I have an issue with multi-chapter stories… so this behemoth caught me completely off guard, and after the response for the first few chapters, I never thought it would get as much love as it did, because the idea is strange, and the concept is weird, and I just want to thank everyone who's read for giving it a chance.
This story has taught me a lot about myself as a writer:
1. I'm never writing an extensive AU again. This shit sucks.
2. I'm going to wait until I actually have the story finished before posting because my updating was so sporadic and I know that annoys me as a reader so I'm sure it annoyed you.
3. Never title something with a metaphor that you don't intend to fully explain. I tried to throw hints of it in there occasionally, but I also realize that not everyone thinks like an English major.
To everyone that's read and reviewed, thank you so much. You really have no idea how much it means to me.

My friends, it's been a spectacular journey, and I'd love to know your final thoughts.)