Not Beyond Repair

Kate Beckett stormed into the hospital, flashing her badge and asking for the whereabouts of her partner, although she wasn't sure that term fit any longer. The woman at the desk gave her the treatment room number and despite all the doubt and insecurity coursing through her, she strode with a purpose.

She was angry.

She had read devastation in the eyes of a criminal's child too many times; the ripple of consequences always extended beyond the intended victim of the crime. She knew the analogy was melodramatic, but Richard Castle knew better than to ignore what his transgressions would do to his one true love, and it was on Alexis' behalf that Kate had come.

Anger was helpful. She could use it to push down the wounded ache that had taken hold of her the past several weeks and the longing to erase time and fix whatever she had done. She could do this. All she had to do was walk in and talk to him like she did when they had first met, as though his opinion of her meant nothing and she had the luxury of being unaffected by his charms. The problem was that it was not his charms she was combating, but his indifference laced with vague accusation.

She took a deep breath then swung the door open and walked into the room with her head held high and jaw set.

The instant before Castle registered her presence he looked utterly pained. His eyes were clenched shut, several stitches lined his bruised jaw and he cradled his arm to his chest.

She hesitated.

His eyes flew open then settled into a cool resignation.

A month ago she would have gently inspected his hand, doing all she could to make him more comfortable. But a month ago he wouldn't have gotten himself into this predicament.

She realized that he was alone. "Where's Slaughter?"

"He dropped me off." She looked incredulous. He shrugged, "He doesn't think I need to be babysat." Like you do was implied.

She ignored his tone and asked flatly, "How's your hand?"

"I likely broke at least two fingers, maybe a bone in the hand. The x-rays should be back soon." He said it nonchalantly but she knew the implications of it must be torturing the writer.

She was done with the pleasantries. She paced the room and ran a hand through her hair, "Castle, what were you thinking? Throwing punches at a bar fight? What you did was not self-defense, it was not to protect someone, not even to apprehend a suspect. You were being reckless!"

His tone was very controlled, "I was following Slaughter's lead. You weren't there and my actions have no bearing on any of your investigations, Detective Beckett. What I do or don't do when not attached to homicide is not your concern."

She stopped pacing and her eyes bore into him, "Okay, Castle. I don't know what's going on with you, but I've been watching for weeks. You want to punish me? Okay. You want to ditch homicide? Fine. But if you are going to continue to hurt your daughter with your destructive behavior, I cannot sit back and watch because I will not allow Alexis turn into damaged goods, like me." She had not meant to add the last two words.

Punching him would have been less painful.

He was staring at her, the need to keep his distance warred with his instinct to protect Alexis, and even the urge to comfort Kate.

"What's wrong with Alexis?" She finally saw a glimpse of the real Rick Castle.

She tried not to relent or to reassure him. He needed to be scared. She proceeded harshly, "You've been acting as a detective for four years, Castle. Look at the evidence. She's withdrawn. She won't talk about you, in fact Lanie says she barely talks at all. She's working double shifts to avoid going home. She's watching her father riding a mid-life crisis of gambling, treating women as disposable, and now thrill seeking with the gang unit. Lanie called me because Alexis started shaking after she got off the phone with you tonight. She is in no state to pick you up." She didn't add that the haunted look in the girl's eyes had flooded Kate with memories of getting calls about her own father.

He stared at the ceiling, trying to look impassive but hearing every searing word. Kate was dissecting every pang and twitch as though he were a suspect. All his nonverbal tells pointed towards an admission of guilt.

She drew in a shaky breath, then more carefully added, "She's already been abandoned by her mother . . . and no daughter should have to watch her father self destruct." It was her turn to look fixedly away.

Castle had meant to only flip the switch, to turn off his feelings for Kate but she wasn't meant to care about him or his daughter this much. He wanted to say that Alexis was eighteen and she could take care of herself, but he was talking to Kate, who had to walk through her own father's self-destructive behaviors starting at nineteen. The writer had no words, either to justify his actions or agree with her accusations.

Kate's voice softened, "I have no claim on you." She blinked rapidly through the words because it was the first time she had admitted them aloud. She blew out a breath then continued, "Castle, I know you're pulling away from me, but please do this gracefully. Just tell me what you want and I'll do it. If it keeps your daughter from losing you, I'll walk away from you right now. I'm already broken . . . just . . . please don't hurt her because of me."

She felt a hand on her arm, pulling her to sit on the bed. She was too tired to resist, but she still wouldn't look at him. She wiped a tear with a shaky hand. He tugged her further towards him until she was close enough for him to slide his one good hand up around her shoulder and hug her awkwardly to him. He wanted to assure her that she wasn't broken, but she was. He wanted to say she wasn't damaged goods, but that was a lie as well.

There had been too many lies.

She started to resist him but his arm held her firmly against him. "Kate, what do you want?" His quiet voice was unsteady.

Before she could filter her thoughts she replied, "This." Her eyes tightened, knowing that he was probably just comforting her because she was upset. He tended toward chivalry, or at least he used to, but she knew his pity would make this separation that much harder. She felt his bicep tighten to keep her from pulling away.

"Kate, when you were shot, what do you remember?"

She was too tired for anything but the truth and it was easier to confess when she wasn't looking into his eyes. This would be the last time she felt his arms, or rather arm around her anyway, so she had nothing left to lose. "Everything, Castle, but if you only said it because I was dying . . .it's okay, I understand."

He did finally understand. She needed more than a confession under duress. "What if I meant those words long before and long after that moment?"

She pulled away, studying his weary expression that was now laced with hope. Her fingers traced around the bruise on his jaw as he closed his eyes, suddenly feeling no pain as she replied, "Then, I'd say you better lay off the flight attendants."

She smiled half-heartedly. He didn't.

"I'm sorry, Kate, it never went past taking her out. I wouldn't, I mean . . ." She shook her head and put a finger over his mouth.

"Not now, Castle. You're hurt and you need to worry about your daughter. I'm not going anywhere."

"I really screwed things up."

She gently inspected his injured hand.

"Not beyond repair."