by Sandiane Carter and chezchuckles
"But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . ."
-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The crimson light spills around him, bathes his face in hot, sticky sunset.
He's pressed against gritty pavement, can't move, the grind of breathing almost too much to bear.
He needs to close his eyes.
A dull throb that shakes his whole body. A flash of lightning.
The clamoring, the roar aches. He twists but can't move, can't get free of the tangled mess; somewhere rain is assaulting the earth.
He gasps and lifts up, eyes opening, panic thudding painfully in his chest. His sweat slides down his neck, makes the backs of his knees damp. The sheets are wrapped around his legs.
A hum startles him, an arm snakes low at his waist, fingers skimming his back. He turns and his wife is opening her eyes, regarding him sleepily.
"What is it?"
He shakes his head, feeling out of focus.
Another flash of lightning just outside their window, the rain so heavy it thunders.
"Storm like that," she murmurs. "Kids'll be in here."
Kids. Yeah. The kids.
On cue, the bedroom door flies open and two pairs of identical eyes stare at him from the darkness, silent and needy and scared.
His wife lifts up from the sheets, scrapes the hair out of her face as she yawns, then gestures for the kids. "Come on then."
The two run for their parents' bed, scramble up with fingers digging into the bed covers, skinny arms trembling, warm bodies colliding with them.
The boy heads for his mother, the girl wraps herself around him, knees at his ribs, face pressed to his tshirt.
He presses his palm to the side of the girl's face, shielding her eyes from the storm outside, and he wonders -
What is her name?
Darkness is mute, matte, flat. But light peels back his eyelids and he winces, gasping with every too-clean, too-cold breath that enters his lungs.
A face resolves in front of him: anxious brown eyes with hints of green, softly waving hair, thin shoulders hunched forward, long and elegant fingers steepled together in front of her mouth.
He hurts. In places too numerous to distinguish. His body is a bruise.
He sucks in a breath, exhaling a low hiss as his ribs creak.
She brings her gaze back to his face, and her mouth parts, hands drop when she sees him awake. She jumps to her feet, reaches for him, settles her hands on the bedside railing instead.
"You're awake," she breathes.
The storm woke me.
He clears his throat, blinks to clear the haze. He's surrounded by white - hospital room. The drone of a monitor, the antiseptic making his lungs burn. And her. Touching him just barely at the elbow.
"Awake," he says, not exactly sure.
"What happened to you?" she moans, presses a hand to her mouth as if to keep it back.
Everything hurts. It's all pain, dull and lurking.
He's having trouble figuring this out. He stares at her, flinches when she leans in so close, so hovering. She jerks back, but his brain is - there's a curtain he can't see past.
"I - I-" he stutters. Was there a storm?
A storm. Lightning. And then. . .
"You scared me. I couldn't reach you. You turned your phone off. What happened to you?"
He shakes his head. "I don't - I don't understand. Who are you?"
Her beautiful eyes widen, concern flaring up, burning; she covers it quickly, but he sees through her mask anyway. The firm line of the mouth, the careful, guarded look hold no secrets from him.
He must know her. He must. That's the only explanation for it.
His mind strains for something, anything, a memory, a name, a picture - the emptiness is daunting, vertiginous, like his brain has been wiped clean. A virgin territory, a desert without the smallest tree, the tiniest bush to hold on to.
Except that storm, and the bed-
Ah. It's almost physically painful, trying to drag the reluctant memories out, pull them from the dark cave where they're hiding. He's not sure they can even be retrieved.
But the bed. He has a vague, hazy picture of it, and he thinks her face - her face was part of it.
It would explain why he can read her so well. But he can't remember anything, anything at all, not even her name-
She's still looking at him, apprehension on her face, a question on her lips that she clearly doesn't want to ask.
"Castle?" she says finally, and he hears the strangled fear in her voice, meshed with denial. Refusal.
Why is she talking about a castle?
She swallows, and he distractedly notices the lovely line of her throat, the whiteness, the purity of the curve. If she's his wife, then he has pretty damn good taste. She's gorgeous.
Yet he's more frustrated than turned-on, because of the scared, knowing look she's leveling on him, because he feels at such a disadvantage. The sensation is sharp, uncomfortable; she knows him, and he doesn't even know himself.
"That's your name," she says, her voice flat, curt. Angry, maybe. Hard to tell.
"Is it?" he replies, surprised. He rolls it in his mind, tastes it on his tongue. Castle. Castle.
It doesn't sound familiar at all.
"It's a funny name," he says jokingly, because the woman in front of him looks like she's either going to start yelling or burst into tears any second, and neither of these options sounds so good to him right now.
She swallows again, looks away, then back at him. "Castle, I swear, if this is your idea of a joke-"
She looks so distraught; his hand moves before he's even aware of it, cradles her fingers. He stares at their kissing palms, puzzled, but enjoying it, too. Uh. Okay. Different.
"No. No joke," he says, wishing it were. The lack of knowledge, the absence of memories sting, begin to throb behind his eyes.
The woman stares at him, part terror, part determination. "Castle is the name you chose for yourself. But your real name is Rodgers. Richard Alexander Rodgers."
Richard Alexander Rodgers. It rolls nicely. Pretty good sound to it. He wonders why he ever felt the need to change it.
"Don't you recognize it at all?" she whispers, a little desperate.
He shakes his head slowly, more sorry for her than for himself. He doesn't know who this guy, Richard Alexander Rodgers - Castle? - is. Not a clue.
"What about. What about Martha?" she asks, and the way she runs a hand through her hair, helpless, almost makes him forget that he doesn't have the answers she wants from him.
"Alexis?" she says again when he shakes his head, her voice low, vulnerable, too much supplication in it.
He shifts defensively, as if to protect himself from the next attack, the next name she'll flaunt at him, that he should obviously recognize and find meaning in - except he doesn't.
But she sinks her teeth into her lower lip, and *that* sparks something in him. Not memory, no, but the hint of one - he knows it should be familiar, knows that he's seen it before. It's not much, nothing amazing, but still. It's slightly better than the blank nothing.
"I should - I should go get the doctor," she says, and she takes a step towards the door.
"Wait," he calls, suddenly a little panicked. He might not know her name, but her face is the one from his dream, (his sole memory?) and that - that has to mean something. "What's your name?" he asks.
He has to start somewhere.
There's a flash of hurt in her eyes, but it's gone in a second. "Kate," she says calmly. "Kate Beckett."
"You didn't-" he hesitates, but he's tired of wondering, and he feels this great, irresistible urge to know, to fill the void, begin piling up new items in his memory. "You didn't want to take my name?"
She spins on her heels to face him fully, looks utterly bewildered.
Shit. But she was here when he woke up, she looked so concerned... "Are you not - are you not my wife?"
The rainbow of emotions in her eyes is too fast for him to catch them all; he does identify shock, though, and something of amusement, and then a darker shade that looks like want, like pure, naked desire. He might be mistaken-
He doesn't think he is.
"No," she says, so controlled, so careful. "Castle, we - we work together. We're partners."
No. No, that can't be right.
"Maybe you should go get that doctor," he says, and she only nods briskly before walking out. He's glad for a moment alone, relieved to get a chance to work at his disbelief, swallow it down.
We work together.
Jeez. Good thing he didn't ask anything about the twins.
After a moment of hospital silence (how does he know this is a hospital?), he realizes there are some things he knows. Or has already begun figuring out. When she pushed past the curtain to leave him, her hips twisted and he saw the shine of a badge, the bulk of a gun at her hip holster.
Wait a second. She said they were partners. Holy shit - he's a cop?
Whoa. Cool. Castle the cop. Officer Castle. Why would he change his name?
Oh. Oh man. Was he undercover and it went bad and then-
Or did his undercover Narcotics assignment go bad just - just recently? And thus the amnesia, the hospital-
His heart pounds hard as she comes back in; he tries to catch her gaze but she's carefully not looking at him. He can't help but reference her when the doctor starts examining him - light in his eyes, reflexes, squeeze his hand. For every question, it's like he needs her to affirm the answer.
The woman hides her anxiety, but he can still see it. Kate.
She's his - she has to be his wife. There has to be more. He has memories - a memory - of her asleep beside him. . .
Partners. He's a cop. Did he - how did this happen? His shoulder feels tender, his ribs hitch as he breathes, but he's got all his limbs, no bullet holes. What happened?
"Elevated heart rate, but that's probably acceptable, given your circumstances. Otherwise, your reaction time is normal, reflexes are good. We'll schedule you for a CT, check out your brain functioning, but in the meantime, let's get a psych consult down here and see if we can't figure this out."
Figure it out? A psych consult. A CT scan. He could have - this is serious, and he doesn't know who he is, or what's going on, and nothing looks right, nothing, except her-
Except her. She's the only thing that looks right.
"Kate," he says, reaching out a hand for her instinctively, needing.
She lifts startled eyes to him, a slow blink, and then she glances back down to his extended fingers, staring, just staring, and he withdraws his hand, drops it heavily to his thigh, unable to breathe.
She's not - she's not his. Nothing of his.
He wishes he'd never woken up.
He lies in the bed, keeps his eyes closed until the social worker can get here. The woman - his partner? - she stays to one side, sitting in that same chair. She doesn't try to speak to him, doesn't say anything at all.
He's alone in this. It's like he was walking around in some gorgeous house this whole time, admiring the artwork on the walls, smiling at the kids in playing in the floor, trying out the bed for a nap. And then he woke up, and the room he'd fallen asleep in was now blank, and colorless, and held nothing in it at all.
When got up to leave, there was no door. When he turned around, there was no bed. And now he's stuck.
In the colorless nothing.
The door opens and a man in thin glasses and balding hair steps inside, case files in his hand. He clears his throat before he speaks.
"Good morning. I hear you're having some trouble."
His wi - ah, partner, or - or Kate. Just Kate. She stands up, walks closer to the bed.
"I'm Kate Beckett," she offers. "This is-"
The man holds up his hand, steps back. "Ah, wait. Let's not go there yet. I'm Vince Roarke, social worker assigned to your case. I'm going to take you through something we call GOAT - Galveston Orientation and Amnesia Test."
His lips quirk. "Goat. I like it."
Kate's eyes cut to his, a flicker of something in them. Something that looks like hope. Maybe he usually does that? Laughs when he's really freaked out. Because he's really freaked out.
"All right," Roarke says. "Let me just go through these."
He pulls out a sheaf of papers and sits down in the chair on the other side of the raised bed. Castle glances at her again, but she's biting on her bottom lip, shifting from foot to foot.
It's so real. He sees it. The only spot of color in the dim room of his mind. Her. So vivid - just that pose, arms crossed, hair framing her face, the sharp cheekbones, and the lower lip pinched by her teeth.
It can't be wrong. It can't be an illusion. She's the only thing he's got-
"What is your name?"
He jerks his attention back to Roarke. "Oh. She said it's - uh - Castle? Um. Kate, is the - is the Richard part still mine? I didn't change that or-"
She passes a hand over her face but nods. "Rick."
Something in his chest eases. "Okay. Rick. Yeah."
He expects some kind of feedback, but the man only marks something down on a sheet of paper. "When were you born?"
"April 1, 1971." He blinks, gapes, glances to Kate with a little grin. Look at that.
She gives him a tight smile, but she doesn't look relieved. "That's right, isn't it?"
The social worker regards him for a moment, then marks something down. Kate nods once.
"Where do you live?"
"I - I . . ." He can't - it's gone. "I don't know."
"Where are you now?"
"Uh. The hospital." Whew, easy one. Okay, he's not crazy, right?
"In what city?"
No confirmation, just the social worker marking it down. He might have seen her badge though. NYPD. Kate has pressed her lips together, a little tendon jumps in her forehead. He'd really like to take her hand. It would help a lot.
He doesn't know why. She's a mystery to him, as much as he's a mystery to himself.
"When were you admitted to this hospital?"
He shrugs, tilts his head back with a sigh.
"Can you answer-"
"No. I don't know. I just woke up a few hours ago."
"How did you get here?"
"There was a thunderstorm. Lightning. I - I was - there was a thunderstorm," he finishes lamely. "I don't know."
Kate's looking at him now, all of it in her eyes. How is it he knows her so well, and yet he has no idea about himself?
"What's the first event you can remember after the injury?"
"This is a lot of questions-"
"What's the first event-"
"-The first event I can remember. I got it; I can remember that. But am I injured? I guess I have to be, right? To be in here. Uh. I remember." He tries to think back, the lightning, the two kids running into the room, this woman in bed with him. "I don't know exactly. I'm not sure if it's a memory or . . .not."
Kate's giving him another look, more severe.
Roarke scratches his chin. "Can you give some detail?"
"Well. I remember waking up and there's - she's here in the room with me. But I - there's more. I don't know."
The social worker waits, fingers on his chin.
"I think I remember - I'm asleep and there's a storm. Lightning. It's loud, really loud; it wakes us up."
Kate shoots him a look, indistinguishable. "Us? Who is us?"
He opens his mouth, finds the words missing. And then he shakes his head, glances back to the social worker. Roarke is simply waiting. "You and me," he rushes through.
Shit. Him and Kate. The two of them. And then two little kids running in the room, eyes wide-
"What?" she gasps.
"I take it this is-?"
"Not real," Kate says, shaking her head, arms crossed over her chest again.
Not real. Not real. But-
"Can you describe the last event you can recall before the accident?"
"I don't remember the accident. Was there an accident? Kate?"
She shakes her head, opens and shuts her mouth.
"She can't give you answers, sir. Can you describe the last event-"
"No. I can't. There's nothing. I have nothing." But Kate, waking up in his bed with a hand at his back.
"What time is it now?"
He glances to the clock, flicks a look to the social worker. "Can I - I mean, I can cheat? Tell time from the clock?"
"It's 2:41. I'm - uh - in the afternoon." He assumes. He has no idea. A social worker wouldn't be at the hospital at two in the morning. So afternoon.
"What day of the week is it?"
"I don't know."
"What's the date?"
He takes a long breath, closes his eyes, squeezes his fists. "I don't know," he grits out.
He opens his eyes. "Isn't that the same as the date? I don't know. I don't know the date. I don't know the day or who I am or how I got here. The only things I do know - according to her, they're not even real."
Roarke watches him through the entire tirade, no comment, completely even, fingers on his chin.
He finds himself taking deep breaths, feeling like he's run a marathon (has he ever run a marathon? does it feel like this? it must, if that's what he's thinking).
And just when he's getting a handle on himself again, just when it's starting to subside, Roarke opens his mouth.
"What's the year?"
He battles back the frustration, tries to be smart about it - if he was born in 1971, and Kate looks like she's about thirty, he must be a bit older, like-
"Two thousand..." he trails his voice on purpose, hoping to get a clue from one of them, read some approbation in their eyes; but the social worker looks as patient and blank as ever, and his partner has averted her gaze, has her lips pressed into a thin line.
He feels himself deflate, the little burst of hope already gone, the cleverness melting into dark, depressing acceptance. He bows his head, defeated, discouraged.
"I don't know," he answers between gritted teeth.