A Note from Logan: There are no words I can use to accurately describe how much I adore Jenny. Thank you, babe, for showing me how much more this could be and helping me get there while being incredibly patient and supportive along the way.
She's dizzy. So dizzy that the world seems to tilt on its axis. She throws a hand out as she rocks forward, wincing as pain zips up her arm.
"Don't move," mutters the EMT, touching his free hand to her upper arm to steady her.
Her left arm drops into her lap, the torn fabric of her pants catching on her scraped knuckles. "I need a phone." She watches as the first responders help the tow truck load her totalled vehicle onto the flatbed, shards of glass sprinkling the road from the broken windshield.
"You need to go to a hospital," the young man insists, reaching around her for a few butterfly bandages and packets of antiseptic wipes. He opens one of the sterile packages and dabs it against the cuts on her forehead.
She hisses at the quick burn. "I don't need the hospital. I need a phone," she repeats. "I need to call -"
The EMT stops her from getting up with a firm hand on her shoulder even as Kate tries to call back. "Stay still, Detective," the man says with the same iron in his voice, fixing the bandage over the open wounds before her hair can fall into the cuts.
She can hear him fighting with one of the uniforms, his voice laced with fear. "Castle," she says. Too quiet, her lungs burning as she tries to shout louder.
He appears around the back of the ambulance and she can feel her heart start to beat regularly again. His hands fall to his sides when he looks over her, the panic in his eyes making way for concern. "Kate..."
She reaches for his wrist but he steps back, pulling away from her even as the EMT catches her elbow. Kate has to close her eyes as the disorientation makes his figure blur. The movement jostles the hard plastic split around her wrist and she bites down sharply on her lip to stop the low whine in the back of her throat.
It's only then that she feels his fingers touch hers, gentle and hesitant. She curls her pointer finger around his thumb, tugging him closer until her knees bump against his hips. Her head falls onto his chest and she can feel the tension in his muscles as he fights to keep his distance, to not gather her up in his arms and make sure she's absolutely safe.
"What happened?" he murmurs, his free hand hovering over her upper arm, left bare by the pale purple tank; the crisp black button-up has gone missing.
"Bastard came out of nowhere," she whispers. "Hit me. Hard."
"She's got a sprained wrist. There are also a bruised ribs, possibly broken," rambles the EMT as he puts things away behind them. "She needs to go to the hospital for an X-ray."
"I don't need a hospital," she insists.
"Ryan called," he says, sliding his hand under hers, thumb coasting over her knuckles softly. "I think I broke, like, seven laws to get here." There's something that almost sounds like a laugh but she senses that it's mostly nerves, residual fear looking for a release.
Kate ignores the twinge of her ribs. "I just want to go home," she sighs. She'd hate how whiny her voice sounds if everything didn't hurt so much.
"We will. Just as soon as you've visited the ER." He's careful as he helps her off the back of the ambulance once the EMT nods, letting her lean heavily on his side as he guides her back toward the car. When he sits her in the passenger seat and starts to move away, she snags the waistband of his pants.
"Castle," she says gently when he turns back to her. "I was trying to call you. I just needed to get a phone. Didn't mean to scare you."
The kiss is soft and brief. "I know. We're still going to the hospital."
She doesn't complain once he closes the door. She wants to but he's still got that look on his face. The one where he thought, even just for the frantic drive uptown, that she wasn't alive and she wants the dark shadow of that possibility gone.
So she lets him reach over and click the seat belt into place as she fumbles with it. She lets him brush the back of his hand over her cheek, trying to avoid the scrapes but catching one, forcing her to stifle a whimper of pain. And when he starts toward Presbyterian instead of going south toward home, she swallows the last protest and instead presses a kiss to his fingertips.
He starts to pull his hand away but she stops him, tangling her fingers with his on the center console. She knows he needs the connection even if he doesn't say it out loud. His eyes dart down to their joined hands then back up to her face.
"I'm okay," she whispers, a gentle squeeze of her fingers against his.
They idle at a red light and he takes the moment to give her a weak smile. "I know."
But he doesn't. Not yet.
She can let him take care of her tonight until he does.