Rewound Chapter One
His eyes were drifting closed for the third time in the past half hour, and somehow he couldn't quite bring himself to care. Gina was in droning mode. They were down to the extremely nitpicky and even more boring than usual details of his contract. The only reason he needed to be here was to sign on the dotted line once it was all over.
Kate was due to call him-hopefully sooner rather than later. If she finished her day of courtroom preparation early enough, he might even get to escape the droning in favor of take-out from... maybe Italian? Louie's was on his way, and it was Tuesday, so they had that spinach lasagne that Kate loved last time. Oh, and there was a bottle of Sangiovese he'd gotten from-
The phone buzzed in his pocket, snapping him to attention. Excusing himself with a sheepish smile, he stepped out into the hallway.
Esposito never called him. A ripple of unease twisted at his gut.
If the call itself hadn't set off warning lights, the detective's overly calm tone of voice would have.
"Castle, you need to meet us at Presbyterian as fast as you can get there. Leave your meeting."
His heart stopped. Absolutely ceased to pump. Then the surge of adrenaline took over, and he was in a dead sprint to the elevators, the phone still pressed against his ear. It didn't even occur to him to tell Gina he was leaving.
He knew to whom he was running-the only person that could make Javier speak to him in a voice so simultaneously serious and terrified.
"She's been in an accident."
He shoved onto the elevator even though it was full of rush-hour suits, hoped he wouldn't lose his cell signal before he could hear the answer to his next question.
"Is she… how bad is it?"
His heart was racing now, cold sweat beading on his forehead, dripping down his back. He consciously took in a breath when dizziness threatened. He must have been holding it.
And then his phone went silent.
# * # * # * #
As he cleared the automatic doors into the ER, his feet nearly went out from under him. He had run blindly for a cab through the rainstorm, and he was soaked, dripping on the linoleum floor, leather shoes losing traction as he changed direction on seeing Ryan and Esposito standing near the nurse's station.
"How is she?"
They turned toward him in unison, Ryan gripping his shoulder as Esposito nodded toward a quiet corner. Both had a stony sort of calm clouding their features, but the clench of Esposito's jaw betrayed his worry. This must have been as bad as his over-wrought mind had been imagining.
"She's in surgery. Her dad is on the way, but they wouldn't let us see her before they took her in. All I could get out of the nurses was that she wasn't conscious when they brought her in, and she's in an emergency procedure."
Esposito's shoulders, already ramrod straight, clenched tighter, puffing out his chest as if he'd failed to break a suspect in interrogation, not shut down by a nurse at the ER.
"What the hell happened? She wasn't even on a case today."
It was Ryan's kind eyes that finally eased back some of the desperation gripping Castle's heart. The man knew how to diffuse this kind of panic.
"It was a car accident. A delivery truck. Witness said she was traveling through the intersection on a green light, not speeding, and this truck just plows through the intersection and T-bones her cruiser."
Lines deepened on Esposito's forehead as he took up the narrative again.
"Guy told the uniforms on the scene his brakes failed. We asked them to get his cell records to see if he was texting or something."
Castle's stomach took a roll, and, suddenly, he thought he might actually empty his stomach. Ryan gripped his elbow, an anchor if not a comfort.
"Hey, they're bound to tell you something. You should go try. The nurse in the green scrubs at least looked guilty when she told us she couldn't give us any details."
Putting one foot in front of the other had never been this impossible. He wanted to know, needed to know as much as he possibly could. But some deep instinct slowed his steps. Not knowing, this frantic flux of guessing, might actually be preferable to...
No. Not an option.
"I need information on Kate Beckett, the police officer who was brought in a little while ago."
"And you would be?" The middle-aged brunette had the look of a prison guard, eyes cooly suspicious, as if waiting for the flash of yet another badge.
"Richard Castle, her fiancé."
"Oh." That seemed to give her pause.
A few clicks of her mouse and "Sarah," as her nametag identified her, met his eyes, hers looking much softer than they had only moments before.
"Ms. Beckett has just come out of surgery, and she's been transferred to the recovery room in stable condition. The procedure was listed as an emergency repair of a compound wrist fracture. Dr. Wells should be out shortly to speak with you."
"Does it say anything about why she was unconscious? What other injuries she had?"
"I need to let Dr. Wells discuss the details with you. I have access to her location, condition, and operating room information, and that's all. But the doctor will be able to tell you more of what happened since she got here, and he shouldn't be long."
The smile she gave him at least seemed genuinely sorry about the lack of information. Thanking her, he turned back to the two detectives who were now huddled together deep in conversation.
A wrist fracture couldn't be too serious, could it? But why would they have taken her into emergency surgery for broken bones? It didn't make sense. And it didn't explain why she had been unconscious when she arrived. Damn his writer's brain for needing more, for pushing past the facts into wild speculation.
Ryan shifted his attention to Castle as soon as the detective noticed him crossing the room again, quieted Esposito with slant of his eyes and raised his brows expectantly.
"She had surgery for a broken wrist, and she's out now. The doctor should be here any minute with more information."
"We just found out that the driver of the truck is here getting checked out. Thought we might go pay him a visit."
The rush of adrenaline was still flooding out most of Castle's better judgement, but a spark of an idea was simmering to life in the back of his mind-there was just something a little bit off about this whole situation.
"Guys, don't you think there's something not quite right about this story? Brakes that fail in midtown Manhattan during rush hour, a truck moving fast enough to crush her sedan in that gridlock?"
He had their attention, though both men looked more wary than intrigued. With no proof of anything, no facts to go on, they would be acting on friendship alone if they believed him now. But hell, the four of them had done a lot in the name of friendship in the past six years-this suspicion needed out.
"It doesn't sit right. My gut is telling me there's more to this than a simple traffic accident."
Esposito gave him a firm nod, his features opening up for the first time since Castle had arrived.
"Listen, bro, we're on it. If this guy has anything to hide, anything at all, we'll find it. You have my word."
Those words lifted the weight of doubt from his subconscious. No one could argue with Esposito's resolve to protect his own.
Castle accepted a hug from Ryan with a quiet, "She'll be fine, you'll see," offered at his ear. Silently praying for those words to be true, his eyes followed their retreating forms heading toward triage.
Squeezing his eyes tight when he lost sight of them, he made the decision not to sit, knowing he needed to burn the nervous energy rather than let it fester.
Twenty minutes and two phone calls later, he was still pacing, the sense of dread ever expanding in his chest despite the confident platitudes he had fed his mother and daughter. Both were on their way even though he had tried to protest, and he was glad. Because the last time he'd waited for her like this, he'd had Lanie, and her dad, and his family, and the boys, and even then he'd felt more alone than ever before in his life. Having no buffer, no familiar faces to occupy his thoughts, keep them from swirling down into the blackness of so many unknowns- this was drowning.
The laminate flooring reflected warped bands of fluorescent light that marked the path of his feet- ten steps down, ten steps back. The random assortment of strangers sitting uncomfortably in the padded chairs failed to offer even the comfort of fodder for character backstories. His creativity was instead occupied by thoughts of what state Kate might be in when he finally laid eyes on her. His mind's eye kept flashing to her face, pale against the grass and getting paler by the minute, as her best friend straddled her hips trying to pump life back into her.
How long could it take for a doctor to wash his damn hands?
All he wanted was to be in the same room with her; to hear her breathing, feel the warmth of her skin, see the pulse fluttering at that spot she loved for him to kiss on the curve of her neck. Was that really so much to ask?
"Family for Katherine Beckett?"
For an instant, he froze mid-pace, not sure if he should believe his ears.
"Detective Kate Beckett?"
The muscles of his neck would probably smart later from the speed and force of his head turning toward the strong, clear, baritone voice.
"Here. Right here."
In four long strides, he was eye to eye with the well-muscled man about his own age, looking comfortably professional in royal blue scrubs with the crest of the hospital printed on the front pocket. The man's grip was as steady as his gaze when they shook hands. The designer glasses highlighted solemn brown eyes, an honest, if stark, face, clean shaven though framed by curly salt-and-pepper hair that could have used a trim.
"I'm Jeremy Wells. Let's step in here."
They ducked into a small conference room, but when the doctor shut the door, neither sat at the round oak table populated with the same purple chairs that had filled the waiting room.
"I'm the vascular surgeon that helped repair the artery in Detective Beckett's hand."
"What? I heard she had broken her wrist. She damaged an artery?"
The panic he had been suppressing somewhat unsuccessfully for the past hour boiled to the surface, made him volatile, unreasonable. Male. The surgeon didn't flinch, kept his composure in the face of hostility, as though this were not an uncommon occurrence in his daily life. But rather than condescension, the man gave off an energy of calm.
"That was the reason for the emergency procedure, Mr. Castle. She was losing blood, and we needed to repair the tear in the vessel to ensure she maintained circulation to her hand. When her wrist was caught between the steering wheel and the door, it fractured two bones, but the artery was damaged when they were displaced. Fortunately, it was a simple repair, and the blood loss ended up being minimal. The EMTs on the scene did an excellent job of keeping pressure on the wound, and they called us in so that she was in the operating room almost immediately. She'll be in a cast for the fracture for a while, and that will require rehabilitation, but her hand should heal as good as new- no permanent damage."
Every muscle in his body released by a degree, the tension not gone, but lessened. The red haze clouding his vision receded slightly.
Whether he was thanking this man, or some higher power, wasn't as important as the sentiment behind the words. Digging deep for some shred of coherence beneath the jittering surface of nerves, he continued, voice still sounding hollow.
"I'm sorry, but I haven't been told very much about her other injuries. She was unconscious when she arrived?"
"She hit her head, and it appears she has a concussion, but she did wake up just before we took her into surgery. She was alert and oriented at that time. The internist who will be taking care of her when she gets out of recovery may want an MRI just to ensure there has been no bleeding around her brain, but there was no indication of that before we took her to the OR."
"So other than the wrist and the concussion- she's- she's going to be okay?"
"I assume you mean... so you're the father, then?"
What the hell was he talking about? He was older than Kate, sure, but was the world just spinning on the wrong axis today? His tone was probably more abrupt than it ought to have been, but he couldn't help the impatience- he just needed information.
"No, I'm the fiance. I'm her power of attorney, though, if there's some question about releasing information."
The man's eyes narrowed slightly, his look at once sharper and more comprehending. His next words were spoken almost to himself.
"So you don't even know yet. I guess I'm not surprised. She's not... If we hadn't done the reflex test, we wouldn't have had any idea."
Every tragic, horrible outcome washed over him at once. She had a tumor, there was some unrecognized fatal disease...
"What test? What are you talking about? You said she was fine. Her wrist and the concussion."
There was a buzz filling his ears, pounding in time with the racing of his heart. Nothing good could come from the next words out of this man's mouth. Nothing. Just the end of the fairy tale he had finally convinced Kate to believe in when she slid that platinum band, diamonds and sapphires sparkling, onto her left hand a month before.
"Maybe you should sit down, Mr. Castle."
There was a lurch in his chest as everything stopped. No, he would not sit. Sitting was for grief. Sitting was for accepting defeat. He would never sit.
"No, no! I'm not going to sit down, you're going to tell me exactly what's going on."
"Calm down, it's nothing to be alarmed about. We were aware of the situation the entire time, took all the right precautions."
His head was pounding now, driving his thoughts and demands, leaving him unhinged.
"What situation? What is wrong with Kate?"
"Nothing is wrong."
His wide, flat palm landed on Castle's shoulder, jolted him just enough to catch his attention. It was the warmth in the doctor's eyes that held his focus, shifted the whole tone of this conversation.
"She's pregnant, Mr. Castle."
# * # * # * #
Author's Note: Thank you to Alex for pulling full on-call beta duty for this actual plotted story. Part psychologist, part editor, I have granted her an honorary PhD for this extraordinary effort. And thank you to Jade for a beautiful piece of art for my cover. She has an uncanny ability to figure out what I am thinking before I actually think it. More to come.
Tumblr: KathrynChristie dot tumblr dot com