A/N: For lalaurala-bones. Always.
This is coming together more slowly than I wanted it to due to real life events but, as you keep telling me, it's a way to extend your day into a bigger party. Happy Birthday, dear friend. Thank you for being there for me...
Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. Unbetaed. All mistakes are mine.
Chapter Two: Changing the Script
Trauma. A bullet ripping through her chest, causing pain. Unimaginable pain. Not just to her but to Kate's friends and the man who confessed his love for her.
Sirens. Sharp, piercing sounds. They're intermittent, fading like her consciousness.
Voices. Castle's words echoing with perfect clarity in her head. Lanie's plea for her not to leave. The doctors and nurses barking facts and commands. Josh's confusion as he struggles to remain calm and professional.
Light. Brilliant flashes of bright, white light. Light in the ambulance and the hospital hallway. Light calling her home to heaven.
Black. Everything fades to black. It's like swimming, floating in the sea and staring up at the blazing fireball of the sun until your lids are forced to close and shut out the light.
Her mind fights to keep working in the darkness. What if... What if I never see my family again? What if I'm not strong enough to ensure Kate survives? What if she doesn't make it this time?
Peace, overwhelming peace. The security of a mother's arms embracing her child. The warmth of a bubble bath, the water lapping at her skin. The perfect quiet that comes when her brother and his girlfriend finally fall asleep.
The whine of the machine next to the gurney is what truly ends all thought. Her worst fear has happened. Just like Kate, she's flatlined.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Castle ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Laura's - no, Kate's - eyes flutter open. She draws a shaky breath, her fingers flexing around those that hold her hand. The grip is firm and knowing. She's seen Rise countless times and yet, when she looks into the eyes of the man sitting beside her, they aren't what she's expecting.
Brown. Like rich, melted chocolate, Josh's eyes are brown and puppyish. But the eyes she is expecting aren't brown.
Blue. Somewhere between the vivid shade of a robin's egg and the steely slate of a stormy sky depending on his mood, Richard Castle's eyes are blue. She wonders if Kate expected Castle at her bedside and was surprised to find her boyfriend instead.
"Castle?" the murmur is faint and feather-light. It leaves her parched lips and causes the man beside her to tense.
She tenses, too. She doesn't know how to act around Josh. Doesn't know what to say or do. Doesn't know how to feel.
It's awkward, painfully awkward. He shouldn't be a stranger, but he is. She listens as he calls her partner, telling him she's asking for him. Josh's words are clipped, though he tries to be polite. She wonders if Castle hears the disdain in his voice.
Josh rattles on making small talk and she suffers through his presence, trying to offer smiles at appropriate times. All she can think about is Castle... and how she looks like a hot mess. What she wouldn't give for a mirror and a hairbrush... but she can't ask Josh.
Staring at him, she realizes he's almost too good looking. His hands are too soft and they feel wrong. His gaze is warm and caring... and her stomach churns because all she wants is for him to go away. It isn't the same, it couldn't be following what happened at the funeral. It wouldn't ever be again.
Had Kate felt that way? Had she wished Josh would just vanish?
"This bracelet looks good on you," he says, stroking the back of her hand. Was he kidding? A plastic hospital bracelet? Wait. It's territorial. It makes her part of his world. The hospital is his turf. "It's not diamonds..."
She ignores the baritone of Josh's voice, her ears perking at the sound of the door. Looking up, she sees him. Partner. Friend. The man who dropped the bomb of his feelings as she lay bleeding out in the cemetery. Funny, Laura thinks to herself as Kate's heart flips in her chest. That's so them. Missed chances and things that never seemed to go quite right but still ended up perfect.
Laura smiles softly, feeling Kate's cheeks flush a soft pink. "Hey, Castle..."
From the corner of her eye, she can see Josh is crestfallen. The man's smile fades as he releases her hand.
Castle shifts his weight awkwardly, clearly feeling as though he's interrupting. He doesn't move further into the room and Laura wishes like hell she could reach for him.
Josh breaks the uncomfortable silence that stretches between the three of them. Standing, he bends to brush his lips over Kate's forehead. "I'll see you after rounds."
Laura watches Castle stand frozen in place, Josh nearly knocking into him before skirting around. Why did men have to display such alpha male behavior?
Finally, he approaches. A soft smile breaking across his face, he speaks softly, "Hey."
"You're staring at me," she answers, touching her forehead. "I must look really bad."
His eyes twinkle, dimples digging into his cheeks. "I just never thought I'd see you again." The way he looks at her - at Kate - makes warmth pool in her belly. It steals her breath and renders her speechless. But she doesn't need words because, like a knight in shining armor, he rescues her. "I heard you were opening a flower store, so I thought I'd pitch in."
She watches him smile again, this time sees it reach his eyes, and waits for him to sit beside her. "They were all here when I woke up. I think they're mostly from the precinct." Wow. Had Kate felt this awkward? she wonders, wishing for strength to get to the point. "I don't think I'm gonna live this one down, Castle."
"Oh," he responds with an easy laugh. "Probably not."
The smile on her face is genuine. She feels something, everything. For the first time since this whole mess started, she feels hope. Going against the grain, Laura throws caution to the wind and takes a gamble. "You tried to save me."
Stunning, blue hues find hers and hold firmly. "You remember?"
Her fingers creep across the blanket, empty spaces between them filling with his. "Castle," she starts, the words catching in her throat. "I remember everything, including what you said." She pauses in uncertainty. Kate hadn't made this confession, though Laura hoped she might every time the episode played. Kate was guarded. She'd hidden in fear of the confession being brought on by the event. "I don't want you to feel..."
Castle's grip on Kate's hand tightens. "I shouldn't have told you like that," he says almost shyly. Rick Castle shy? Now there was a sight! "I couldn't not tell you how I felt..." he swallows and corrects himself, "How I feel about you, Kate. I know it complicates things and I..."
She cuts him off, pulling him closer. "Are you saying..."
He cups her cheek, looking into the depths of her shimmering, moss-colored eyes. "What I'm saying is I love you, Kate. I love you and I wanna be with you, even if I have to wait."
Laura's mouth goes dry. Is this the way it could've happened? She reaches for him, hands curling around the lapels of his jacket as she urges him to sit on the edge of the bed. He smells crisp and he's so warm.
Anticipation. The shared breath that hangs between almost lovers as they sit on the edge of a kiss. Her lips hover so close to his that she can feel the last time it happened. She tingles at the muscle memory of the kiss she and... Holy hell... She has Kate's memories. They're beginning to cloud her own. She can taste him.
Castle's hands glide over her upper arms. "Kate..."
A frustrated sound escapes her. She looks into his eyes - blue, so blue and filled with longing - and feels heat building. "I need time, Castle," she says. What she means is time to end things with Josh. Time to make things right and come to him freely.
But he hears something else. He hears the words of his Kate. The Kate who sent him away for three months. He stands up, turning away and deep down Laura knows he's steeling his heart for the worst. For rejection. "How much time?"
She reaches for his hand, but he's just beyond her reach. "Just time, Castle," she says softly. "Time to make this right."