For ER, who begged me - a companion to Sweetheart.


He isn't sure how long he'll have. A few seconds, a few minutes.

All he knows is that he has to talk to her. He has to talk to her before they find him.

And they will find him, he has no doubt of that. He's just not sure what will happen when they do.

He's been trying to call her for the past fifteen minutes with no luck. Being stuck in an underground subway station doesn't lend itself to good cell phone reception. But he's finally found a spot where he gets a couple of bars. It's conveniently concealed too, out of sight.

Castle presses his wife's speed dial one more time, but she doesn't pick up. Why doesn't she pick up? She always-

Damn. He forgot.

She and the boys are at Sing Sing. Their phones will have been confiscated. Shit. Shit shit shit. He cannot do this.

It was just supposed to be an ordinary day. Well, not quite ordinary. If it were ordinary, he'd be with his extraordinary wife, interviewing a man who knew their victim while they were in prison together.

Instead, he left early for a meeting, left Kate in their bed, pressing a soft kiss to still slack lips, brushing a stray lock of dark hair out of her still shut eyes, whispering his love to her. She didn't wake, not fully. But he felt her smile, that unconscious acknowledgment of his actions.

God, if he'd known...

He'd have woken her up. He'd have told her all that she means to him. He'd have made love to her.

He'd never have left.

His meeting went well. Standard stuff. Approving artwork, discussing a book tour. Things that Paula and Gina seem to think are so important for his career. He wishes he'd blown them off.

And he wishes the storyteller in him, the part of him that's always curious, always wants to watch people, to figure them out - he wishes that part of him hadn't convinced him to surround himself with people today by riding the subway.

He could have driven, he could have taken a taxi. Hell, he could have walked. Instead he decided to take public transportation, to immerse himself in life as a New Yorker.

He dials the precinct, hopeful, but the call fails. Shifting his position, he tries again. Nothing. There's nothing. He has no signal.

Peeking around the corner, he takes in the sight of families huddled together, of mothers comforting their children, husbands tucking their wives into strong embraces.

Castle hasn't figured out what the men want exactly, just knows that they've somehow managed to take hostage everyone who was on his train, that they forced the driver to stop here in an abandoned station, that there seems to be no way out.

There's-

There's nothing he can do.

The writer thumbs quickly to the voice recording app on his phone. If he's lucky, he'll erase this message later today and she'll never know it existed. If not...

"Hey sweetheart," he says, keeping his voice low.

He can picture her face, the way she always grimaces when he calls her some silly pet name, and the laughter erupts from his lips before he can stop it.

"I know, Kate," he mutters. "I know how much you hate that."

She'd be smiling though. Trying not to, but she'd be smiling. She loves him enough that even the annoying things he does usually earn him a tender, if exasperated look, the corners of her mouth turning up against her will.

"And I know you're holding back a smile right now, because you secretly love it when I use sappy endearments with you."

"You're rolling your eyes aren't you?" he asks, a smirk spreading his cheeks at the thought of driving her crazy. "I know you, Kate Castle."

He has to pause then. Has to push down the mix of love and dread rising in his chest as he says the name that means so much to him.

He remembers it all. Remembers her short hair when she cornered him at the book party all those years ago. Remembers the glares she would shoot him as he annoyed her at work. Remembers her hand on his knee by the side of a pool, the comfort she shared.

He remembers watching her die and a year later watching her choose life. With him. A life with him.

He remembers sliding a circlet of gold over her ring finger, promising to love and cherish her forever.

"I wish you were here," he murmurs, his heart tight, pounding with hope and fear and overwhelming need before reality sets in. "Well, no. Not really, because if you were-"

God, no. He doesn't want her to be here. He wants her to be safe.

He swallows over the lump in his throat. "Anyway, I'm just glad I'm getting a chance to talk to you. I didn't know if I would."

He knows it's better that she's not here. But still...

"I wish I could hold you right now, kiss you, feel your skin against mine."

The words come out unbidden, and he can hear the ache in his own voice, knows that of she ever does have to hear this message, those words will probably make it even harder for her.

Shutting his eyes, he breathes through the sudden tears clogging his throat. "I miss you."

An image flashes in his mind: Kate wearing black in a cemetery, arm around his daughter. Another: Kate in their bed, huddled to one side, her hand stretched toward his pillow. And another: Kate standing alone outside a school, watching their child trot off to start kindergarten.

They haven't even found out yet if it's a boy or a girl.

If he doesn't-

He doesn't want her to be alone. He doesn't want her to have to face all of those things alone.

"Kate, I hope-"

But then he hears a voice bellowing, drawing nearer to his hiding spot. He hears the sound of his fellow hostages as they grow more worried, as they pull each other close.

"I have to go," he says. "I'm sorry."

He drops his voice, has to finish this, has to tell her at least once more. "I love you, Kate. So very much."

Shutting his eyes, he sighs, presses his forehead against the brick in front of him. Her eyes and her smile flash through his vision, and he sets his hand against the wall, imagines it's his wife standing before him, watching him with that adoring gaze that only he gets to see.

He remembers their vows, the promise that has held them together through it all. He hopes it will be enough.

"Always," he murmurs and hopes she'll believe it.

He lingers for a moment, just breathing, and then he ends the recording.

His phone halfway to his pocket, he turns around, finds the source of the voice. It's a man, tall and thin, his cheekbones sharp in the unforgiving light, hair close-cropped. There's a wild look in his eyes, something of a cornered animal in the way he stands.

"Well," he says, his voice carrying toward the writer's hiding spot. "Since they won't listen, I think I'll shoot her first."

He gestures with his gun toward a terrified woman standing a few feet away, her arms banded around a small girl with dark hair and petrified hazel eyes.

Castle's heart drops into his stomach. He doesn't want to-

But he can't just stand by. He slips the phone into his pocket, hopes Kate will find it, hopes she'll be okay someday, hopes she'll forgive him for what he's about to do.

Taking a deep breath and clenching his fists, the writer steps forward. "No."