Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine.

"I don't walk right, not like I used to
There's a jump in my step as I rush to see you
I could be happy here as long as you're near to me
As long as you're close to me"

-OneRepublic, Goodbye Apathy

She's kept a steady vigil for three days.

McCord had called her the night he was admitted to say that she talked to Villante and convinced him to give Kate some time off so she could be with her fiancé. Another warm rush of gratitude towards the older woman had had Kate practically gushing over the phone as to how thankful she was.

"It's nothing," McCord had said. "Can't have you trying to work when there are going to be bigger things on your mind anyway. It's bad for the job." But Beckett had seen right through the excuse.

At least there's that, she'd thought. Everything may be shades of grey here, but at least they're supportive.

Castle's spent most of the time asleep, occasionally waking to converse with her or a nurse for a few minutes before falling back under. This is normal, the doctors say. They repeatedly assure her that he's going to be fine, but that the recovery process is going to take a couple weeks. A person doesn't merely revert back to full health in just a few days after being on the brink of death.

He's sleeping now, his brown hair flopping over his forehead and his eyelids twitching as he dreams. He looks so much like a little boy, and it makes her heart ache (maybe even with a little bit of want). She covers his hand with one of her own, using the other to brush over the warm skin of his forearm, up to his shoulder, and back down again. And she might be imagining it but she thinks she can hear him subconsciously humming.

Such a beautiful man, her fiancé is, and in so many different ways. A beautiful man that she almost lost.

It's still eating at her – the guilt gnawing away at her insides and making her feel sick.

Her job almost got him killed.

Sure, he's been in danger before – they faced down death numerous times in New York – but not until now has she had to face the terrifying reality of cradling his head in the grass after he collapsed, of sitting in the back of the ambulance holding his hand and fearfully watching the heart monitors, of walking into a room to find her better half in a hospital bed, hooked up to a slew of beeping machines.

She knows she loves him (has known for a while, there's no doubt about that) but she'd never realized how devastating it would be to lose him – to never kiss him, hold him, wake up to his smile ever again – until the threat of that reality had become imminent. If he had died…she never, never would have recovered.

And she never would have forgiven herself.

The fist that's been around her heart since his blood tests came back gives another squeeze, and she can't help leaning over to trace his lips, his nose, the curve of his ear. She hasn't been able to stop touching him, to stop reminding herself that he's here and he's breathing and their future has not been snatched away.

But, oh, they came so close.

Castle stirs in his sleep and mumbles something incoherent, his hand twitching under hers. She leans back, not wanting to wake him with her need to be near him…

And yet that need still wins out. She hunches over in her chair to rest her head on the bed, nuzzling at his hip. And it's there, listening to the calming lull of his (finally) steady breathing, that she manages to drift off to sleep.

When he wakes up, his hand is tangled in something soft.

It feels nice.

And oddly familiar.

He cracks his eyes open to find Kate draped over the side of his bed, tendrils of her hair curled around his fingers. She looks so peaceful, so at ease for the first time in days, and he's tempted to just let her sleep on and get some rest, but the clock says that it's three a.m. and that position can't be good for her back and what in the world is she still doing here when she has a perfectly good bed only a mile away?

So he untangles his fingers and nudges her awake.

"Kate…Kate. Wake up."

She rouses slowly. "Mmm, what's going on?" she mumbles, easing herself up and rubbing at an eye, still half-leaning on the bed. He sees the exact moment when his wakefulness registers with her because she's suddenly alert. "You okay, babe? Need me to call a nurse?"

"No, no," he says quickly. "I'm fine. But you should go back to your apartment, Kate. Get some rest. You look exhausted."

She runs a hand through her hair self-consciously. "It's okay. I'll deal."


"I didn't see you for six weeks, Castle," she murmurs. "There's no place I'd rather be than here."

And goodness, if that doesn't crush the air out of his lungs more than the toxin did.

He reaches up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear; she responds by turning her head to kiss his palm and then nuzzling into it. It still takes him aback sometimes, how affectionate she is. He'd never imagined that serious, tough Detective Beckett would have such a gentle side to her.

Well, at least not in the beginning.

But now…now he feels so incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity to get to know her, to discover every facet and flaw and everything that makes her beautiful and just…


God, she's going to be his wife.

He heaves a rattling sigh, so overwhelmed with it all, but does his best to flash her a smile when she looks at him, concerned.

That's apparently enough to convince her that he's alright because she kisses his palm again before sighing herself. "You really scared me, Castle."

He cracks another grin. "You worry about me, Agent Beckett?"

He means for it to be teasing but immediately regrets it when he sees tears spring to her eyes. Horror clenches his guts.

"Sorry. The meds-"

But she quietly cuts him off again.

"You know I love you, right?"

He blinks, completely taken aback.

"Castle." She leans forward, suddenly fierce with it. "You know I love you."

"Yeah, yeah." He responds quickly this time. "Of course, Kate."

"Good," she says, closing her eyes and cradling the hand he still has pressed to the side of her face. "Good."

He frowns at her, still confused, but tries to move his thumb and wipe away some of those stray tears nonetheless. Then it's her turn to take a shaky breath.

"I'm so sorry, Castle," she whispers, anguish in her voice.

That's when it hits him.

"Don't you dare tell me you blame yourself for this, Kate."

She doesn't speak, just clutches his hand tighter, sorrow etched into every line of her face.

Oh, God. He needs to hug her.

He struggles to lean forward, to get an arm around her shoulders, and that warrants a reaction from her in an instant. Her eyes snap open and she's on her feet, trying to get him to lay back down.

"No. Castle. You can't," she says as she gently pushes against him.

But he continues to tug at her, not letting up in his resistance until she's curled over the bed and pressed into his side as much as she can be at this angle, her breath against his neck. He squeezes her as tightly as he can with the little strength he currently has.

"It's not your fault, Kate," he murmurs into her hair. "It will never be your fault."

"I was careless," she says, and he thinks she's crying again. "I dropped the picture. I let you find it."

"That was an accident, Kate. You know that."

"An accident that almost cost you your life."

"Hey, if anything, I'm at fault for not letting it go and deciding to investigate myself."

"No. Castle-"

"Kate, if I don't get to blame myself, then you don't either."

That gives her pause and she sniffs, fingers twisting in his hospital gown.

"You know," he says. "I once heard a remarkable detective tell a daughter who blamed herself for her mother's murder that it wasn't her fault, it was the fault of the people that killed her."

She pulls back to rest her forehead against his, eyes closed. "Yeah?"

He bumps their noses together. "Yeah. Seems like a pretty smart woman, if you ask me."

She hums before opening her eyes to look at him. And while there are still tears there, they don't look nearly as weighed down with grief.

It puts his heart at ease.

He raises his head to press his mouth to hers – slowly, gently. Her hand comes up to cup his jaw before carding through his hair, and he has the sudden thought that he could spend a thousand lifetimes with her and still never tire of kissing Kate Beckett.

She pulls back tenderly, her eyes roving his face, and he fights the pull of sleep that is rapidly threatening to pull him under.

"Love you," he murmurs, eyelids drooping.

She smiles at him and lightly smoothes her fingers down the side of his face. "I love you too. Now sleep."

"You too, Kate." He makes a faint waving motion with his hand. "C'mere. Sleep with me."

She huffs at him. "No, Castle, I can't. There's no room. I'll take the couch by the window in a bit. You rest."

But he's having trouble following the conversation now. "You wanna do it on the couch?"

She laughs, a beautiful, bright thing, and he doesn't know why she's laughing but his eyes are closing and her lips are brushing his forehead and he just feels so warm.

"Maybe when you're feeling better, Castle," she whispers against his skin. "For now, sleep."

And he does.

A/N: It's been a while, but it feels so good to be writing again and to have a new season to write for!

As always, reviews are so very welcome.

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