Well, Dear Readers...this is it..the final chapter...I so hope you have enjoyed the story..the journey...Please let me know what you think

As always, my friends keep me grounded...thanks

XXOO, Melody

Kate lay in her place on the couch, having finished her sketches she began tapping a pen on her pad. She was becoming impatient with her enforced confinement. She understood she needed to stay within herself, but the month had been particularly arduous.

She and Rick had argued frequently about her incessant drive to perform her exercises, often until she was breathless from exertion and pain. In her mind, she was preparing for the day when Steve would release her from bed rest and she refused to be a wobbly mess on that date. Rick on the other hand was worried she would overdue her exercises, reminding her they were supposed to be passive movements, not leg gymnastics.

Thanks to Alexis's interventions, they had reached a compromise on Kate's eating habits. No one brought it up, but it looked like Kate's rapid weight loss had ceased, while she was not gaining weight, her weight had stabilized.

Her restlessness only grew as she reviewed her progress. She wasn't sure even when Steve released her if she could tolerate going through another long and difficult rehab.

Kate, you're such a wimpshe thought to herself. Her eyes filled with tears of frustration as she laid her cheek on the pillow. Rick had quietly been observing Kate, his heart breaking for his love.

"Hello, love. I just got off the phone with Steve. The month is over, he wants us to go to the hospital tomorrow for some follow up tests, then he'll examine you and we can move forward." His voice tried to be positive and kind, knowing Kate was in a dark place.

She rolled onto her back, a slight moan escaping her. She was still very tender and moved tentatively. Her eyes opened, showing her emotional state and she was irritated at her perceived weakness.

"What tests?" Her voice was still raspy, but it was easier to talk, her voice less hesitant. Rick had delighted in teasing Kate how sexy her voice was, very Lauren Bacall which did not thrill the Detective one bit.

Rick paused before he listed the various tests Steve had ordered. Once he finished the list, he glanced at Kate. She glowered at him and began to softly swear.

"I'm going to be a frigging pin cushion that glows in the dark. Christ, this is ridiculous."

"Kate, Steve wants to make sure your healing properly, you have some serious injuries. Hell, Kate, you could have died." Rick's irritation was growing.

They both glared at each other silently, resenting the circumstances they were faced with, but neither were angry with their partner.

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Alexis walked in and immediately sensed the tension. She ran her hand over Rick's shoulder on her way to kiss Kate's forehead.

"What's up, guys?" Her voice light, curious.

"Kate has to have some tests in the morning before Steve will see her. So, guess who is grumpy?" Raising his eyebrow and tilting his head in Kate's direction.

Kate took exception to his comments and started to complain, but was interrupted by Alexis.

"Good grief, Dad. Kate has had a horrible time, give her a break. She's been in constant pain, can't get out of bed, can't eat and is totally dependent on us for everything." Her voicing raising with passion as she finished. It was now her turn to glare at her father.

Rick looked at his daughter and then to Kate. His face looked embarrassed and he grinned sheepishly. He ran his hands through his hair, Alexis was right, Kate had paid the price and all in all had been very compliant and cooperative.

"I'm so sorry, Kate." Running the back of his hand over her jawline. "I'm so sorry. Forgive me?" His wounded puppy eyes never failed to melt her heart.

"Of course." She collected a tuft of his hair, pulling him towards her and her lips met softly.

"What time does the fun start?" She snarled.

"We have to be there at 08:30. They mentioned the testing may take a while."

"What's a while?" Kate asked, suspicious about the time.

"Maybe up to two hours?" Rick announced in all innocence.

Kate started another protest, but was stopped by Alexis.

"Doesn't matter. It is what it is. We'll take stuff to distract us, books, whatever. Time will pass quickly. I'll be there."

"Wait." Both Kate and Rick interjected.

"You're going to Columbia for orientation this week, you need to get ready." Rick wasn't sure where this was going, but suddenly he was nervous.

Alexis shrugged her shoulders, looked Kate and her father, licked her lips and began.

"I was going to wait and tell you later, but I've decided to delay admission for a semester." She knew she better talk fast as both people in front of her were beginning to understand and neither was happy.

"It's no big deal. Kate needs help getting better, and you." Pointing at her Dad, "can't do everything by yourself."

Kate set staring at Alexis incredulous to this plan. Her hands on her face, her head shaking in disbelief and her face paling. Rick was the first to speak.

"No, that's not happening."

"I want to do this. Kate is important. Anyway, I'm eighteen, I can what I want." Her face set, determined. Kate's silence, ended abruptly and she jumped to her feet.

"Absolutely not." her words spit out in anger. Her outburst surprised everyone and her rapid movement caused Kate to gasp, nearly collapse as all the colour left her and her eyes fluttered. Rick caught her before she dropped. She fought him, continuing to shout at Alexis.

"I won't have it. I won't." Emotion poured over her as she began sobbing.

"Kate, I don't want to leave you. Please let me do this." Tears were now pouring down Alexis face as she pleaded her case and she buried her face into Kate's chest that was being supported by her father.

Rick had his hands full with two hysterical women, both stubborn, wanting only to help the people they loved.

"Hey, stop crying, both of you. Nothing is settled, we can figure out something. School doesn't start for over a month. Let's go one step at a time. Alexis you go to your orientation tomorrow. You can go with us to the hospital, leave for your appointment and comeback to be with us, Okay?".

Rick was doing his best to calm them down. He was full of pride over his daughter's offer and worried about Kate who was still deathly pale and quiet. Alexis nodded her consent to her father, Kate never moved.

"Alexis, why don't you make us some shakes while I help Kate get comfortable." Alexis rose to go to the kitchen first kissing her dad and rubbing Kate's arm.

"Kate, Kate. Talk to me." Rick buried his face in Kate's neck, waiting for a response.

"I...pulled something...it hurts, I didn't want...to say anything with Alexis here." She whispered into Rick's ear, her crying lessening, her words ending with a grunt.

Rick picked her up and carefully held her close to him, murmuring into her ear.

"We won't let her delay her start. I'll think of something, I promise.".

"It would kill me for her not to go to school because of me." Her voice caught as she thought of Alexis offer.

"shhhhhh. It will be good. You have to calm down, please." Rick looked down at Kate, she was still so pale, shaky. He called out, "Alexis, bring Kate something for pain when you come."

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Rick worked towards getting Kate settled down. Her eyes remained closed, her head slowly shaking back and forth as she worried about Alexis' declaration. Alexis returned drinks and pain pills in hand, noticed Kate's face and bit her lip. She believed that her idea had been well founded, but it obviously have created problems for both her father and Kate. She but her lip and looked at her dad, mouthing "I'm sorry." to her father. Rick blew her a kiss.

"Kate, here's your drink and something for pain." Rick speaking to her gently, encouraging her to take the offerings.

Kate opened her eyes and searched for Alexis. She smiled at this remarkable young woman.

"I didn't mean to cause problems." Alexis continued biting her lip. "I love you so much, I just want to help."

"I know you do, I love you too. Your dad and I will figure it out, remember he promised." Kate smirked at Rick, the colour beginning to again fill her face.

The remainder of the day and evening was quiet. Alexis and Rick had fixed some homemade potato and leek soup, straining out any lumps for Kate's ease of eating. They also had Mario send over his special flan.

While they ate, they watched one of Kate's her favorite romantic comedies, Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. She drifted in and out of a restless sleep, still disturbed by Alexis proclamation. Rick set next to Kate with her legs draped over his lap as he rubbed her feet, still trying to console her. Alexis was on his other side, feeling guilty about how badly her announcement had been accepted and how it had adversely effected Kate.

Alexis decided to go to bed after watching several movies with her dad. As she said good night to her dad, she leaned over and kissed Kate on the cheek and before she could leave, her progress was halted.

"Alexis.". Kate whispered. "I need a hug." Alexis laughed and reached in, hugged Kate and ran upstairs to her room. Kate and Rick watched her depart in silence, both lost in their thoughts.

"Oh, Rick, what the hell are we going to do? She has to go to school, I...if..." Kate believed she would break again as the words stuck in her throat.

"Actually, I have a potentially brilliant idea." Rick smiling, very proud of himself.

"What?" Kate's lips pursed, her eyes narrowed, wanting answers.

"It's late. Tomorrow, sweetheart. Let's go to bed." Kate began to pull off the covers, but was stopped with Rick smoothly scooping her up and heading to bed.

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The morning sun was peeking into their room, warming Kate and she worked to clear her fuzzy head. It had been a long and stressful night, Kate felt she had been on a treadmill all night. Her brain had been revved up and while she had been deadly tired, she hadn't been able to sleep.

Rick came in, two cups of coffee for their morning ritual and greeted her with a long, lingering kiss on her lips. He looked into her eyes, seeing her concern, uncertainly.

"You need to get together so we can leave for the hospital. The first test is at 08:30."

"Wonderful, I'm so excited." She rolled her eyes and struggled to get out of bed. Rick reached out and helped her to her feet, she swayed slightly as she headed to the bathroom.

"You got this? Remember nothing fancy." Rick spread his hands out behind Kate, ready to catch her if she fell and escorted her into the bathroom.

"What do you want to wear?"

"Oh, I thought I would wear my shortest dress, low cut, with the highest damn heels I own. Oh wait, I'm restricted to t-shirts, sweat pants and flats, how fetching." Kate's voice dripped with sarcasm and she began to dress. Rick hung around until she was finished, figuring she could use a hand.

They walked out of the bedroom, more relaxed and chuckling lightly. Rick had started the levity by suggesting he could wear the short dress, but was afraid that the heels would make him so irresistible he would have to beat her off, before commenting wait she was already beaten.

Alexis was waiting and ready to leave. She handed Kate her morning concoction and they were off. On the way to the hospital, they all made small talk, yesterday being ignored, all of them realising it was something to be discussed later, and besides that they were all a little nervous about the tests and Steve's examination of Kate.

The front desk at the hospital gave them a list and timetable for the various tests. Kate groaned as she glanced over the extent of the testing. She was to be scanned, x-rayed, poked, prodded, blood drawn and have a tube rammed own her throat.

Rick had wanted her to take something for pain, but she adamantly refused, stating she didn't want to miss one second of the possible painful experience. Rick understood that she was nervous and the pain pills made her feel vulnerable and out of control. He decided he would allow her this point and he would deal with her at home, when it was over.

As they predicted, the testing took over two hours and she still had the laryngoscopy to go. That test really scared her, a tube rammed down her throat. It brought make memories of her waking up after surgery with the breathing tube in place and how panicky she had been. On top of being nervous, she was fading from exhaustion, but steadfastly refused pain medicine.

Alexis had re-joined them after her orientation, she was quiet and merely shrugged her shoulders, refusing to discuss the orientation, in her mind it was pointless because she would not be attending school in September.

Rick excused himself, telling them he would be back before the last test. Kate frowned, she was worried he would miss it and she would be alone.

"I'll be back, give me a minute, I promise." Kissing her forehead he hurried off. Normally, she would be curious and push for answers, but she was focused on thinking about the test and started tapping her foot.

Right before she was scheduled to enter the specialist office for the test on her throat, Rick reappeared.

"See, I'm back. Let's go."

Kate stood slowly, reached for his hand and tried to quell her nerves. Entering the examination room, made her shudder, alerting Rick to just how nervous she was.

She sat in the exam chair and her eyes became large as she spied the various instruments on the table. Her tongue moistening her lips. God, when she had become such a baby.

The doctor entered the room and introduced himself. "Detective Beckett, I examined you the night of your assault. You're looking better. How do you feel?"

"My throat is still sore, it hurts to talk though not quite as bad. My swallowing is better, but my voice is raspy."

"Well, let me explain your injury.". He went into complete detail, describing how close the assailant had come to crushing her larynx, but caused some nerve damage, swelling, leaving her voice box weakened. He told her all of this should clear with time, though the percentage of improvement varied.

"I want to look in our throat with a tube, test your vocal cords. I can give you something to make you relax..."

"No drugs, just do it."

"But..."

"Doctor, get it over with, I'm not taking any drugs."

The doctor could tell that Kate was not going to relent.

"Then, let's get started. first lean back in the chair."

The nurse strapped her head to the back of the chair, preventing any movement of her head. Kate felt her heart rate increase, she was terrified. Rick settled in on one side of her and rubbed her face.

"I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere."

"I know you have some facial fractures so I'll use a small tube, which shouldn't hurt our jaw. I will stick the tube in, it has a camera at the end and I can take pictures of your larynx. You'll need to do different vocal manoeuvres so I can test the function. It shouldn't take too long, then we'll know where we stand and how to proceed. Ready?"

"Yes." her voice soft.

Kate closed her eyes as the tube entered her mouth and down her throat. She had a slight sensation of choking. She squeezed Rick's hand tightly, willing herself to remain calm. She performed all the tests she was instructed to, some more uncomfortable than others. Finally, the doctor announced he was finished, the tube was withdrawn and the strap on her head was removed.

The chair was returned to an upright position.

"Sorry, I know that wasn't comfortable but you did great. Your larynx is healing, but it will take time. Resting your voice is still important. There's nothing else that needs to be done."

The last stop was going to see Steve about the other test results. Kate was in a state of near collapse. She hadn't had any pain pills, and the entire testing process and stress related to them had done her in.

When they left the specialist office, she was leaning heavily on Rick and he was partially carrying her, though no one would have been able to tell. Alexis was carefully observing Kate, looking for signs of distress. As Kate saw Alexis, she pushed away from Rick and greeted Alexis with a big smile. They entered Steve's reception area and were immediately taken to the back.

Steve entered, greeted each of them and turned his focus on Kate.

"You look tired, Kate." Steve commented.

"You'd be tired too if people kept jerking you around, poking you, taking pictures." Her words dripping in sarcasm

"Well, I see your sense of humour is still intact." Steve couldn't suppress a chuckle, nor could Rick, leaving Kate glaring at both of them.

"Lay down and let me examine you.". He expertly looked at every inch of her injured areas, asking her questions as he progressed. When he had finished he pulled up a stool and began to talk to the three of them. Kate started to sit up, but he gently pushed her back. "Stay there, Kate." Kate was relieved as she wasn't sure she could sit.

Steve had Kate's chart in front of him with the results of the latest round of tests.

"The throat specialist and I talked, he mentioned he had talked to you so I won't belabour the point, but for God sakes give your voice a rest, otherwise you will have this sexy smoky sound for ever. Am I clear?"

Kate and Rick both nodded, not wanting to interrupt his report.

"The brain CAT shows the concussion healing, though you may residual headaches for a number of months." Kate frowned at this news, more pain, great.

"I've talked to the plastic surgeon about your facial fractures. The cheek is very stable as is the mandible fracture. You can start eating soft foods, nothing hard or chewy. If it hurts to chew, don't eat it. Simple, any questions about that?"

"By the way your lacerations healed beautifully. I'm pleasantly pleased that you only lost a total of twelve pounds.". Steve could tell he needed to get this review finished shortly, Kate was beginning to doze off.

"The orthopaedic guys said we could take off the cast and fit you for a brace which you'll need to wear another month, but you can start physical therapy." With that he used the cast cutter to remove the cast. After the cast was removed, Kate looked at her arm, it was shrivelled and thin, disgusting.

"The abdominal and chest CAT scans revealed the lacerations are healing, the blood that had been in your abdomen has absorbed naturally. Your haemoglobin is stable and there is only a microscopic amount of blood in your urine. Very stable. The bruising on your lung has improved and the broken ribs will just take some time to heal. Nothing awful, everything better. You can get off of bed rest, but take it slow, slow, lots of rest, some exercise, take pain pills regularly. You guys hear me?" Looking at Rick and Alexis, they nodded agreeing with him.

Kate on the other hand, groaned and swore softly, freedom with strings attached, naturally.

I want to see you in six weeks, about the time you return." Steve interjected, waiting for his statement to sink in.

"Back?" Kate's eyes now open, curious as to the comment.

"You'll have to ask writer boy for details." Steve smiled in Ricks direction, knowing this was going to be a dramatic presentation.

Rick stood up, went over and kissed the top of Alexis' head and ended at Kate's side.

"Steve and I have been discussing various possibilities for weeks. We have all had a stressful time, we all need some rejuvenation...some regrouping.

"Alexis, I know you love Kate, we all do. You worry about her being weak, struggling to recover. I've seen Kate in every type of situation, she's the most remarkable, challenging, frustrating person I know . She is also without question one of the toughest, most single minded individuals I've ever met and she will recover. Your offer to stay and take care of her, of both of us is amazing, but we can't let you do that." Alexis started to argue, but Rick cut her off.

"I'm hoping a trip will get all of us all ready for our next chapter.

"What about traveling?" Kate looked at Steve for clarification.

"You're healthy enough to travel and we talked about your limitations."

"Um, one more question, Rick licked his lips, embarrassed to bring this up, but he wanted to know. " Um, how about sex? Is it Okay? I won't hurt her."

"Oooh, in the room dad." Alexis was disgusted.

Steve and Kate chuckled at the awkwardness of the situation.

"It's fine, she should be okay."

"I promise to be gentle, big guy." Kate was smirking, rolling her eyes and patting his arm.

"That's not what...I. Wait...You're teasing me, aren't you." Rick was pouting and they all laughed at his shyness.

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Rick ended up carrying Kate into the loft, the entire day had left her worn out. He put her into her special spot and started laughing, the irony overwhelming him.

"What's so damn funny?" Kate demanded.

"I think it's poetic justice that the time has come for both of my favorite women to leave the nest, one from a nest of necessity, the other from a nest of security."

"The writer in you can't resist can you?." Kate sinking into Ricks arms, hopeful of things to come.

"My, the adventures we're going to have...the options are endless."

The three lay on the couch intertwined, smiling, purring with contentment, dreaming of the future and falling into a peaceful sleep.

So, its over...now the questions is...do I write a followup...my plan is to have Castle and Beckett explore the Island of Bali...its so magical and a great place for love...I promise no angst...What do you think?

Again, I loved the journey, hope you did too

XXOO, Melody