"We'll start off with a mild amount of the medication to see if it has any effect," says Dr. Deras as she stands over Kate's bed. "We will up the dosage in fifteen minute intervals, marking her responses as we go. We have a total of nine doses to try."
Jim lays a conciliatory hand on Castle's shoulder as they administer the first batch of Propranolol. There's a collective holding of breath as they wait for the medicine to enter her blood stream but it runs through her and ultimately… nothing.
Dr. Deras signals to the nurse to hand her the next dose. The nurse complies and the doctor injects the new shot into Kate's I.V. Still nothing.
Castle's heart leaps into his throat, waiting for the moment he can run to her - hold her hand and she'll hold it back - but each time his dreams are dashed. Even though he knows they are barely halfway into the procedure, a part of him already wants off this roller-coaster ride.
Until, finally, with the fifth dose, her eyelids flutter. Castle's the first to see it but the nurse is the one to note it, saying out loud, "patient responding. Twelve-oh-two p.m. Dosage seven-point-five milligrams."
Jim turns to Castle, beaming, and he can't help but find her father's hope overwhelmingly contagious.
The nurse preps a new needle and hands it to Dr. Deras. She injects the drug again, and while Kate's eyelids continue to flutter, all other signs remain unchanged. Until the seventh dose, when her fingers twitch for the briefest second.
Castle jumps in excitement.
"Hand tremor. Two–eleven p.m."
Dr. Deras looks back at Castle encouragingly.
He holds his breath as the M.D. administers the last of the medicine. His heart leaps as he watches Kate's lungs fill, sucking in a large gulp of air. Her eyelids pop open and she immediately scans the room, as if she's desperately trying to find someone before it all goes dark again.
She sees her father first. Jim smiles at her and she exhales in relief. But she doesn't stop looking until she finds Castle.
The writer freezes when their eyes meet, not wanting to break the connection. She's studying him and he realizes she's trying to figure out if he's real or not.
He moves toward her, wanting to touch her, solidify his presence for her. As he nears her bed he watches all the panic drain from her face. He reaches out and brushes her arm but as he does, she closes her eyes, falling away from him yet again.
The Nurse leans over her, checking her vitals.
"What does that mean?" he demands, desperate for someone to explain what's happening.
"We wait." The doctor speaks slowly, choosing her words. "We gave her the maximum, and as you saw yourself, she responded well. But her body needs time to adjust before we can evaluate the drug's lasting effects."
The room clears out, bodies shuffle past him but Castle doesn't move. He's holding on, coveting that look she gave him. The one that says she knows, that she remembers exactly what they mean to each other.
She's in there somewhere, and he's not going anywhere until he can see her again.
He's still standing there in the same spot when she wakes.
It starts as a slow stirring; as if she's being pulled form a deep slumber. Her body shifts and stretches. Her fingers flex. Her head - resting on one cheek, looking away from him - turns, and he watches her face roll into view as her eyelashes sweep up in unison like tiny twinned sunrise.
"Hey." Her throat is dry but her greeting is loose, relaxed.
"Hey," he returns. Much more somber than he wanted.
She glances at him, taking in his serious expression, the concern etched in his brow. She smiles playfully.
"What? I haven't lost a leg or something have I?" She looks down at herself, pats the bed. "Whew."
He lets out a laugh, but it's small and forced. "They say you're fine. Physically."
"Uh oh. What does that mean?"
He'd answer her question only he doesn't know himself. "What's the last thing you remember?"
"Is this some kind of concussion test or something?"
He shakes his head no. Her easy mood making him uncomfortable more than anything else.
"Umm, okay, Mister Serious… let me think." She leans back, considering. "Wow, actually, there's kind of a big blank spot."
"They said that's normal. Just think back, it may be a bit, to the last thing you can remember."
He reaches out and takes her hand in his, as if he has the power to grasp her memory of him, pulling it out of her, keeping it intact and real in her conscious mind.
"I remember… being in the car, with you. And we were following Lucas. And then, oh my god, the Escalade." She opens her eyes wide, stares at him in disbelief. "I can't believe I almost forgot about that."
"Do you remember anything… after?"
She searches her mind, "No." Her forehead creases, pushing her concerns to the forefront, the reality of her situation sinking in. "It's black. It's just… all black."
His heart falls. Their time together has been erased.
He shores up, pushes his hurt down. He wants to make sure his voice is clear, calm. "Don't worry. It's a good sign. Means the treatment is working."
She looks at him quizzically, what treatment?
"I'll let the doctor explain."
She nods. "Okay." But he can see her grappling with the idea that something big has happened and she's been left out of the loop. Her fingers wiggle underneath his, trying to get away. He should let go, he knows he should, but he just can't seem to relinquish it.
His grasp releases when he sees that look on her face. That special look of confusion and fear. Just like the one she gave him when she lied to him about his confession in the graveyard.
It's obvious to him now, knowing everything going on in her mind. She's so scared that he's going to confront her about how he feels. She's not ready to hear it.
It's only been a couple of days, but they are back where they were three months ago.
The irony – yesterday she took the leap, yesterday she could handle it. And today that's all gone. As if it had never happened.
"I heard she was asking for me." Josh enters the room. His smile confident, so unlike the way he last left Castle.
The novelist had known this moment would come and that he should leave when it did. But somehow he couldn't help holding out hope that all of it – well not all of it, just the stuff about them – would come back to her. And then he'd be there, right there, to assure her it was real.
But now he's forced to watch them reunite. Forced to watch Josh swoop down and wrap his arms around her. He can't seem to turn away. Instead he watches, a lone witness, as the doctor stroke her cheek lightly, lovingly – the cheek he laid endless kisses on just a little over a day ago.
He cringes. And while his legs fight to stay rooted to the floor, he finds himself opening his mouth, excusing himself. Shoving his body out of the room.
Dr. Burke strides by. "How's she doing?"
"Well, I think. She's awake. And she seems… happy."
"Good, better than we could've hoped."
Castle nods despite the fact that he wants to yell, scream at the top of his lungs: this is not better at all. This is so much worse.
"Now that we have an idea how much time she's lost, you should think back to what happened over the last day. Make sure to remove anything that might trigger her memory."
"Yes, thank you. I will do that." Castle hesitates. Not sure he wants the answer to his next question. "Will she ever… will she ever remember?"
"I don't know. There is still so much to uncover about Propanalol's affects. However, for her sake, it might be better if her memory never comes back."
Castle winces, he can't help it. The idea that their time together is gone forever is simply too hard to swallow.
"Here's what I do know. The brain is an enigma. And if keeping those experiences at bay allows her to function again, then it's a good thing. Maybe someday - a year, two years, a decade from now - she'll remember. And if that memory comes back to her of its own volition, then that means she's ready to handle it. Ready to move on."
The psychiatrist steps closer, as if needing Castle to really hear his final words. "Whether or not she remembers is ultimately up to her. You have to let her discover it herself, when and if she's ever ready."
Castle nods, appreciating the doctor's clarity, doing his best to keep his face from showing the dread that's building up within.
He turns to look at Kate through the windowed door. She lifts her head as Josh dips his down to take a phone call, and she catches her partner's eye. He reads her concern; she's worried about him. He's always been the easy-going one but now that's gone, replaced by a heavy weight she knows nothing about.
He looks away, not wanting her to see the anguish rearing up inside him. He's hiding himself, keeping his true feelings tucked away from her. And it occurs to him, this is the beginning of a world of that. He'll be on one side, keeping her in the dark, never letting her in. He's always been her partner, but now they'll be pitted against each other. Now he'll be yet another person in her life keeping secrets from her.
It's been a week but the hospital finally let her out and she's home. Back in her apartment. Back to her normal life. With only a few days of rest before she'll be back at work.
Josh helps her through the door, places her gently on the couch.
"Got rid of some of my stuff. Figured it wasn't worth holding onto. I thought it would be a nice surprise."
"That's so sweet." She leans in and gives him a peck on the cheek. "Thank you."
"I got dinner for us too. Take out. That Chinese place you love on fifth. You hungry?"
"Lord, yes. Hospitals serve the crappiest food."
"You'd think it gets better when you're a doctor. It doesn't."
He ambles into the kitchen to prepare the food. She looks around, takes in her living room in its recreated state - looking more like a room in a young couple's apartment than her home.
As she sinks down into the couch cushions, she closes her eyes, surprised by how tired she is already.
"You want wine?" he calls from the other room.
"Love some!" She notices the extra cheer she's infused in her voice for him. She's trying oh-so hard. And while it's reasonable under any circumstances for her to be tired – she's in recovery after all - she knows that her body's not the problem. It's her heart that's hurting. And she can't explain why.
She puts on a poker face for every sweet gesture Josh perfects. She sells her gratitude but something, something feels terribly wrong. Like she's in the wrong apartment, with the wrong person - like she doesn't even belong in this space anymore.
She thinks hard about where this could be coming from. Why she's carrying this albatross around her neck. But her mind is blank, missing so much information. Running in circles, hitting walls at every turn. Except when she thinks about the letter.
She told Castle in the hospital room that the chase was the last thing she remembered but that wasn't true. The last thing she remembers is waking up in the middle of the night and pouring her heart out on the page.
She thinks this must be what's eating her alive. The knowledge that she carries all these feelings for another man. All these feelings that she can't bring herself to admit to him in person.
And before she can stop herself she's wandering into the bedroom looking for the letter. To make sure it's there. To make sure it's still safely tucked away.
She opens up her hutch and pulls out Montgomery's files, all neatly stacked in one corner, exactly where she left them. She shuffles through them once, then twice. But it's not there.
Did she move it? Hide it somewhere else?
Anxiety wells up inside of her and before she knows it she's ransacking the room, searching everywhere, desperate to find it. Soon the room is in shambles but the letter is still missing.
She can hear Josh calling for her from the other end of the apartment. She forces herself to take deep breaths, needing to make sure her voice is calm, steady before she responds.
"Just a minute!"
She pulls herself together amidst the chaotic clutter, taking deep breaths that help reign in the panic.
She kneels down, slowly putting everything back as it was. Returning everything to its rightful place. Filling all the holes she created in the drawers, bookshelves and nightstands, with their possessions.
But nothing is filling the ever-expanding hole she has in her heart.
Castle sits at his desk, a tumbler filled with his secret stash, perched delicately in one hand. He is halfway to drunk but he can still feel the sting.
He holds the glass carefully, not wanting to stain her letter. The one he should've returned along with the files, but didn't. He's laid it out for himself along his desk, arranged it in a beautiful tapestry made out only of page and ink and her.
And while his goal is to push the pain away, he can't help but read and reread each of her words. His heart back in his throat like it was the first time he laid his eyes on it. His lips tingling with the expectation of her kiss. His blood rushing through him when he thinks of swooping her up in his arms and making her say yes to him all over again.
He takes another sip and decides there isn't enough liquor left in the bottle to get to numb today.
"I did what you suggested. I wrote him a letter."
Kate's back in Dr. Burke's office. Back on the couch.
"How did it go?"
"It was scary and… liberating. I've never done that before. Never let my fears take control and write themselves out into concrete sentiments."
"Did you learn anything?"
"That I'm not in love my boyfriend." It flies out of her mouth before she has a chance to censor it. She sighs, feeling horrible for uttering such a ruthless statement out loud. But maybe it means her guard is finally starting to come down. That she's finally accepting that Dr. Burke's office is her room, her room to be free and honest with herself. And nothing is more honest than her realization about Josh. "He loves me, but I don't love him."
The therapist let's her sit with that conclusion, giving her time to process her own words. Finally he decides to interject. "That may not be a fun lesson to learn, but it's an important one. Listening, truly listening, to all of yourself – not just the parts of you that talk the loudest – is one of the most important skills you can have, especially as a cop."
"Then why don't I feel any better?"
"Because it's hard to do this kind of work. Especially when you are used to pushing your emotions down in order to move on - in order to get on with your job, your life. But as you've learned, that only works for so long."
Kate nods. He's right. She knows it. And yet…
"I thought..." her voice cracks a little, "I thought maybe if I put it down on paper I'd get it out of me, out of my system."
"But?" Dr. Burke encourages her to continue opening up.
"But it's like I've lost something now. Like something was taken from me. I just can't shake it."
"You have lost something. Time."
Kate fidgets, frustrated. "No, no. It's bigger than that. I can't get rid of the feeling that something important happened to me and I shouldn't leave it behind. I shouldn't let it fall away like all the other things that occurred that day."
"Don't push it Kate. Let yourself get there, but on your own time. Let your brain recover."
"But what if this feeling, this intuition, isn't something I should ignore?"
"You read the reports. You know the state you were in when they found you. Do you want to go back there?"
Kate shakes her head. That's the last thing she wants. If she goes back there she can't work, she can't investigate. She can't be his partner.
If she goes back there, they win.
"Listen, Kate. I've seen this kind of trauma exert itself on my patients and I've watched a few of them die from it. Either by abusing themselves with alcohol or drugs, or by literally taking matters into their own hands." He gives her a stern stare.
She bows her head. If he's trying to scare her, it's working.
He softens. "Let the medicine do its job. Let it help you."
Kate nods. He's making a lot of sense.
"You could search for it. You could force yourself back there. But we all know what happens when we do that."
Kate raises her head. Curious as to how he is going to finish that thought.
Dr. Burke cocks his head and grins. "Knock on the devil's door long enough, he's bound to open it for you."
A/N: I saved this author's note for last quite simply because about halfway through posting this story I suddenly got very nervous and thought, oh no, what if everyone who's reading this story feels like I pulled the rug out from under them at the end?
Well (and let's be clear about this, the fact that I'm explaining myself here in and of itself could be considered a minor failure on my part as a writer of fanfic – but anyhoo) I came up with this idea right after the season 3 finale. I was looking for a way to get Castle and Beckett together but not lose the angst. Plus, sex for the first time is always explosive and I didn't want it to get old (shame on me for not pushing myself to get more creative in the bedroom!). So here's a way to give them sex for the first time, and then the next time will be like the first time all over again.
Most importantly, at the end of my 'season' you would be at a cliffhanger. Oh no! Things are really crappy, but there's this thin ray of hope. Let's tune in next season to find out if things get better. (And yes, I have my 'season 5' story loosely mapped out already).
However, this is fanfic, not a season of television. So if I did that wrong, I apologize. It was not my intent to set up cool stuff and then just walk away. It was my intent to build a plausible world for these characters to come together and then force them apart so we could enjoy watching them come together again in the future.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts. If you think I've taken a wrong turn, ended on a wrong note – let me know it! For me, what's so valuable about fanfiction is that I get to hear straight from the horse's mouth whether you are on the journey with the characters or not. And if you're not, when and how did I lose you? If I held your attention up to this last chapter and now you feel cheated, that's ok, just tell me that's what happened. Or maybe you're a little bitter but kinda excited that there's more to come? (Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part…)
Regardless, this has been a fantastic experience for me. I have loved writing this story, posting this story, and hearing from all you passionate & articulate fans of the show who are invested in these characters and who they are at their core. You made me think about my choices and see some of them in a new light. Some people like to write in a vacuum but I like to throw it out there to see how it holds up.
You guys help make writing fun!