Restless Hours - Chapter 1

1. At one he couldn't sleep.

He laid there, in bed, wide awake, staring numbly at the ceiling above, unable to sleep. He wanted to sleep, desperately so, but he just couldn't. Despite the lengthy debriefing at the U.S. Embassy and the long return flight, his blood was still pumping with the adrenaline of it all. He hadn't really slept at all for nearly a week, the all-consuming fear keeping him alert and anxious. Nothing had been able to soothe his racked nerves until he was finally able to wrap his little girl in a bone crushing hug. He was never going to let go of her again. Never.

"You're still awake?" her voice drifted across the room, formed in a question, but it was a statement.

He gave a noncommittal hum in response, swallowing past the lump that had been in his throat for the last couple of days. He just didn't want to feel this way again. It was exhausting. His chest was tight; his heart clenched in wrenching agony at all the thoughts of what could—thank god—could have happened. But his stupid over-active imagination was not afraid to conjure up all the horrible images, bombarding his conscious mind with all the terrors and associated emotions.

"Castle," she called out to him, but he didn't respond.

He felt the mattress dip as she shifted onto her side. Her hand came up to hold his cheek, tilting his head until his eyes were locked with hers.

"Rick," she used his first name, her voice firm, as she gazed understandingly at him. "It's over. You brought her home. She's safe, sleeping upstairs in her room, her bed."

He bobbed his head in acknowledgement of all that she said. He knew it was true, he did, but his mind just wouldn't obey. "I… I can't sleep," he mumbled, his voice raspy with all the built up tension. "I… I just can't." His eyes welled up with tears. "Every time I close my eyes… I… I see her in that cage."

"Shh," she soothed, scooting closer to him. "It's okay… it's okay."

"It's not, Beckett!" he snapped, glowering at her. "It was Alexis… she was taken, and put in a cage… if… God, Kate, everyday we both see what evil humanity is capable of."

"I know," Kate replied, curling up into his side, letting him feel the warmth of her body. She wrapped an arm around his waist and burrowed into him, pressing a soft kiss against his jaw. "Just try not to think about it, okay?"

He let out a derisive laugh. "That's just it… I can't," he answered, somewhat bitterly. "My mind doesn't work that way. Call it a writer's curse, if you will, but I keep imagining the worse case scenario."

"Castle," she breathed out, all sympathetic and understanding. "You can't focus on the 'what ifs'. Focus on the here and now, and what is real. What really happened, not what could or might have happened, but on what did."

He inclined his head, knew she was right. Alexis was home, safe and sound, sleeping upstairs in her bed.

"You're right," he croaked out.

Kate raised her head to look at him. She beamed at him, eyes sparkling. "Damn straight I'm right," she winked at him, trying to lighten the mood, and then she leaned up to press her lips against his. He closed his eyes and sighed into her mouth, feeling some of the tension release.

"Wanna talk about it?" she questioned, giving him a concerned look.

"No… not yet," he replied after a brief hesitation. "I'm… not ready."

"Okay," Kate replied softly in complete understanding. Her fingers brushed through his hair. "When you are, I'm here. Always."

He gave her a weak smile, so very grateful to have her here with him. She pressed her lips softly against the corner of his mouth, rubbing their noses together, before resting her forehead against his.

"Anything I can do to help?"

"Just be here… with me, please," Castle murmured, slipping his arms around her to bring her closer, needing to feel the reassuring presence of her warm body next to his.

She inclined her head, dipping down to kiss him once more, before cuddling in and burrowing her nose into the crook of his neck. Castle sighed in gratitude and relief, so thankful she was here, and closed his eyes, willing sleep to come.