A/N: So many thanks to Jess, Julie, Laura, and Sarah for picking up their ice axes and strapping on their crampons and clambering up the gigantic disapproving glacial wall of ice that is my attitude toward everything I write. Thanks also to all of the other lovely, terrifying people who so very helpfully nudged me (with their hunting knives) to get this thing done. I think we're looking at a total of three chapters that should hopefully be up fairly quickly.
He startles awake from a too-real dream, a darkened bridge and a gunshot and her throaty dying moans echoing up from the cold concrete. Pulse hammering, he reaches toward her, brushing her hair back from her cheek. He can't quite get the air he needs, feels the walls spinning in, the darkness coiling tight, looping around his chest. He jerks up, twists to his knees and yanks the curtains back, tries to gather some kind of comfort from the moon-bright night outside the RV's windows.
He feels a skittering over his forearm, a light, cool touch, and then her voice, lilting over his name in a soothing murmur. "You okay?" Her fingers trail along the bones of his wrist, bump over his knuckles.
"Fine," he says, throat thick, the air still closing in, wrapping more and more tightly, a noose around his neck, and out there, out there somewhere, is the man who -
"Hey." Her murmur drags him back into the present, clarifies the congealing oxygen, pulls him toward the reality of the moonlight glancing off the sharp edges of her cheekbones.
He stays on his knees, hovering above her, his lungs expanding and collapsing too quickly, the suffocating spin still threatening to close back in.
"What was it?"
He pauses, tries to swallow it back, but the words expand in his chest, swell up and out of his throat without a conscious effort, the deepest parts of him responding, as always, to her husked hybrid of command and question. "The bridge. With Tyson. You didn't –" The darkness is thickening again, a cloying thing that sticks all but those six words in the back of his throat, choking him.
She presses up onto her elbows, then slowly rises to her knees beside him. "I had a dream earlier," she offers softly. "When you were in holding, when I read those emails to you, one by one. The look in your eyes. And it wasn't – it wasn't even really a dream, right?" Her voice is hoarse, clogged by an ache he doesn't even know how to begin to erase. "Just a memory."
He reaches out, covers the dry skin of her elbow with his palm, skates his index finger along the tense line of her tricep. "You should have woken me."
She shakes her head, shuffles closer to him on her knees until her body is melts into his. "I wanted you to sleep." He sighs, nods, rests his nose on the crown of her head, breathes her in until he feels the knots inside his stomach begin to loosen.
The five days since the bridge have been a whirl of sleepless nights and hollow days, an echo of Tyson in every corner of the loft, the shadow of the killer in the stark line of every sidewalk. It would have helped, being at the precinct, throwing himself into finding justice for another victim, but Gates was more than firm about Beckett's week of paid leave following what she'd not entirely incorrectly called a "life-threatening hostage situation that resulted in a not-insignificant head injury" and the "discharging of a round of bullets resulting in the (not even remotely proven, Castle can't help but mentally add) death of a suspect."
It had been an odd type of relief when Paula had called him with a last-minute publicity opportunity for the weekend, a celebrity stint as an announcer for a pumpkin-flinging festival in Delaware that would have the unintended benefit of letting him escape the city for forty-eight hours. If he'd had any doubts about Beckett's residual issues, they were erased by how quickly she'd agreed to go with him, how eagerly she'd jumped on the opportunity to hop a flight and rent a luxury RV and drive through cornfields to the middle of a deserted stretch of the east coast.
He's not sure how long they stay on their knees, but eventually he pulls himself together enough to stroke a hand along the curve of her side, trail his fingers over the ridge of her hip. She shakes her head slowly, a rhythmic motion against his chin.
"That's not sleep," she chastises, but he can hear the husk of her tone, a different, deeper rasp than when she described her dream.
"Castle, your guest commentating will never live up to Stephen King's if you don't get at least one decent night of rest."
She makes it easier for him to drag the pieces of himself back into some semblance of order. "I can't believe you're comparing me to Stephen King when we're in bed together. There's only one thing you can do that will assuage my wounded manhood."
Her finger suddenly jabs into his side. "He's the one you're stepping in for, Castle. And you're the one who talked for twenty minutes on the flight down here about how the coverage is airing on the Science Channel and how you're a vital cog in the vast and intricate machine of the knowledge of mankind."
"Ouch, Beckett, I think that was my kidney." He skates his hand up under the edge of her shirt, tries to let the heat of her skin burn off the icy shards of the dream that still cling to him. "Really, I don't know how I'll sleep without some kind of intensive therapy. You're holding the fate of nearly a hundred thousand Punkin Chunkin devotees in your very capable hands."
She must hear whatever's beneath it – his too-naked need for the most visceral kind of proof that she's still alive and whole - because she's letting him pause for only long enough to pull the curtains closed before she presses him into the firm mattress, mouthing her way along his jawbone. "Be fast," she chastises as she skids her hand up under his shirt, "I don't want Paula to call and start yelling like that one time over the summer when you barely made it to that book signing."
"It wasn't my fault, you were just so shiny and new and…" He loses his train of thought as her mouth trails lower, lower, and finally his world collapses to nothing but the flame of her mouth and hands and body.