A/N: Okay dear readers, I have a new game. I want to pop out a chapter once every three days. I can do this. I have the time. Sometimes, I just sit on a chapter and wait for the right moment to read it over, or wait for the right line to pop into my head, but I know you want this updated faster. So, if I have not updated this in three days, you PM me some grief, and I will get the next chapter out. Deal? Deal.
"It's Alexis," Rick said, in a panic. He threw off his apron and began pacing back and forth. His hands bunched in his hair and he pulled it, hoping the bit of pain would help him order his thoughts.
"She's got to..there's a surgery...I've got to go...I've got to get up there."
He around the coffee house, almost packed with customers and swore under his breath.
"What do - what do I do?" he asked, shell-shocked. Kate extended a hand to him and led him out from behind the counter to have a seat on an overstuffed armchair. People were staring, particularly the customers left in line who were murmuring among themselves, but Kate ignored him and squatted in front of him, taking his hands.
"Talk to me, Castle," Kate said, using her softest, most concerned detective voice, the one she saved for victims' families. "What happened."
"There was a car accident. They took Alexis to the hospital. She has go to into surgery - I have to call my mother." It all came out as a jumble. He grabbed for his phone and thumbed it, tapping it twice before pressing it to his ear. He ran his hands through his hair while he waited for an answer.
"Mother...come on Mother, pick up. Damn it!" he swore as her voice-mail message kicked in on the other end. He left a message. He slumped back in the chair.
"No answer?" Kate frowned. Rick shook his head. Looking at his phone with dread, he made another two taps and selected another contact from his contact directory.
"Hi Rob," Rick sighed into the phone, "I need to take some time off. It's a family medical emergency. I - no, not next week, today. I need you to find someone to cover the rest of my shift. My daughter needs - yes, I know Sundays are your "gallery days", it's just I really - I really need this, Rob. Please. No...no, I understand. Yes, I do value my job. No, I can't just stay until the end of my shift, I -"
Kate snapped her fingers and motioned for the phone. Castle handed it over and put his face in his hands, hoping to cover his emerging tears. He couldn't quite hide the hitch of his breath, though, and Kate ran her fingers softly through his hair, avoiding the bump, before addressing the phone.
"Rob? This is Detective Beckett. You remember me from the other day at the coffee shop? Good. I'm going to walk outside away from my grieving friend whose daughter is in the hospital having surgery and then you and I are going to have a chat. Is that okay? I'm not taking you away from your gallery day? Good." Backett strode out of the cafe, her heels clicking almost irritatedly, and the door shut behind her, the bell ringing in her wake.
Gina gave Rick a reassuring pat on the knee and he looked up to see Detective Beckett through the glass of the coffee shop window, pacing back and forth like a caged tiger as she talked into the phone. Her mouth twisted and bunched as she barked out something that couldn't be heard from within the coffee shop, but outside, a passing mother gasped and covered the ears of her two children. Beckett raised a hand in apology and continued on her tirade Rick thought back to the day he got to witness Detective Beckett interrogate a suspect and marveled at how similar she looked through the window of the coffee shop. He grinned. She was interrogating for him. Pausing momentarily to listen to what must be Rob's answer, she nodded, satisfied, ended the conversation, and ended the call with a sassy tap to his phone screen and s smug smile.
Beckett walked back in triumphantly and frowned, eyes flicking from Rick's face, to Gina's, to the hand on Rick's knee and back up to Gina's face again. Gina yanked her hand back into her lap and looked chagrined. Castle looked down to his lap and looked back up, surprised. Was there something territorial going on between the two women? Was the territory HIM? It couldn't be but...
"You can go, Castle. I cleared it with Rob. He said that once the patrons leave, you can head out. Go get your stuff. I'll give you a ride."
Rick looked around the coffee shop incredulously, and then stared pointedly back at Beckett. There were customers everywhere. They were never going to get out of here. Kate looked around for a moment too, as if she'd forgotten there were other people occupying the same room, but she settled herself quickly and held up a finger, asking for some patience. Striding confidently into the middle of the room she pulled out her badge and held it up high in the air.
"NYPD! I need everyone to leave the premises immediately!" Her voice rumbled out in a commanding tone. For a moment, everyone merely froze in their seats, staring back at her, but a second later, they were all clamouring for the door, and the entire storefront was empty in under two minutes.
"Can - can you do that?" Rick spat out, in shock.
"Just did," she shrugged.
"I know, but can you - if there's no crime - do you have the power to..." He motioned with his hand like he was holding up a badge. Beckett shrugged again.
"They don't know that. Go on. Get your stuff and lock up. I'll walk Gina out." Castle scurried to the back, waving his goodbyes to Gina.
After he was gone, Kate turned her most suspicious stare on Gina, who blinked back at her innocently, with a small, patronizing smile. Kate's eyes narrowed even further, and she opened her mouth to say something, before thinking better of it. Taking another moment to think about things, she decided to be diplomatic. After all, this woman might be giving Rick a much deserved book contract.
"We'll talk later Gina. I'll give you a call," Beckett said pointedly, and did gave her best effort, mimicking Gina's smile. This seemed to make an impression on the editor, because soon she was nodding enthusiastically, while backing out of the coffee shop, waving her goodbyes.
The drive to Lake Placid was mostly a long one, and spent in silence, with a few interruptions. Rick was amazed at how quickly and easily Kate's own phone call into the precinct was.
"Hi Ryan. I'm taking the rest of the day off. It's an emergency. Cover for me with Montgomery? Just tell him I'm out following a lead or something. Okay, well, then tell Espo to do it. Oh, and make sure you follow up with all of Phil's workplace contacts. It's a hunch. Oh, and tell Josh he can go home. No, don't put him on...Hi, Josh. No, I had to run out of town. I'll call you when I get back, okay? Bye." Rick was trying not to eavesdrop, but his head perked up at the last bit of conversation.
"Josh is at the precinct?" he asked, a little hurt. Intruding on the detectives was his job.
"He dropped by this morning." Kate raised one hand to her mouth to try and cover her twitching smile. "He uhh...tried to make us coffee. She shook her head to keep from giggling.
"It uhh...it didn't work out." She added cryptically, smiling. "I think he's a little bit jealous of you."
"Jealous? Of me?!" Rick said in disbelief. Kate shot a pointed look across the car to the passenger seat.
"He should be," was all she said before she turned her attention back to the road.
Martha called, too, eventually, in a panic, and thanks to years of stage projection training, Kate could make out both sides of the conversation through the phone. From their previous meeting, Kate would have predicted the elder Rodgers to engage in a melodramatic uproar over the news, wailing and shouting, but to her surprise, Martha seemed calmly resolute and reassuring. After a moment, Rick held up the phone to her ear, and she took it.
"Katherine? This is Martha, darling. We met the other day. You remember me, don't you?"
"Of course, Mrs. Rogers. What can I do for you?"
"How is he, really?" the voice on the phone asked. Kate looked over at Rick, who seemed despondent on the other side of the vehicle. "He puts on a good face, but he has to be worried out of his mind about Alexis. She means the world to him."
"I know. Don't worry. I'll take care of him, until you get here. Are you driving up?"
"I'm just leaving the city now. I'll be there as soon as I can. And Kate? I'm sure he's glad that you're there for him." Kate blushed.
"He's been there for me. It's the least I can do." Kate replied quietly into the phone.
Kate and Martha said their goodbyes and Kate looked over at the man across from her, his face pressed into the cool of the window pane. She reached over and squeezed his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" she asked. Rick nodded glumly, still pressed into the glass."She's going to be alr-"
"Don't say it, Kate. Don't say it unless you're sure. Because if you're wrong..." Hurt bubbled up through his voice. They didn't speak again until they reached the hospital.
Adirondack Medical Center was small, but clean and well organized. Rick staggered in, looking tired and lost, while Beckett parked the car. He lumbered up, frantic, to the nurse's station, and paced while the desk nurse looked up his daughter's information. Kate was by his side, squeezing his hand before he got an answer. The nurse gave a perfunctory update. She was still in surgery, and they wouldn't know any more until it was over. There was a surgical waiting area, located along a series of hallways, through a series of doors that had Rick's head spinning, but before they could wait for news, several forms had to be filled out. Rick sighed in defeat as he was handed a clipboard with a medical history form and insurance and payment forms. Frustrated, he went through them quickly, scribbling down information with the sticky ball point pen until his arm felt a little numb. Handing it back to the desk nurse, he started towards the surgical waiting area before she could even look the forms over.
The waiting area itself was a bleak little space with vinyl covered chairs, and quiet huddled people with downcast eyes. A clock ticked ominously on the wall. Rick collapsed onto the nearest bank of seats and felt his eyelids drifting shut. Day had turned to evening on their drive, and he had gotten no sleep the night before. Running entirely on caffeine and adrenaline all day, it seems that both had run out. Rick felt the vinyl cushion next to him move, and then someone arranging his heavy limbs. When it was all done, he was lying sideways , curled up on the bank of cushions and covered by a blanket. He looked from the blanket to Beckett, questioningly.
"I keep it in the trunk for now, okay? I'll wake you if anything happens." Castle nods drowsily, and yawns, letting his eyes drift shut. The last thing he feels is Kate settling into the cushion next to him and running her fingers across his brow, soothingly. Then the entire world goes black.
Rick awakens with a gasp and a start, sitting up immediately. He blinks heavily, and focuses on Kate, next to him, the warmth of her thigh still present on his cheek. He must have used it as a pillow.
"How long?" he asked.
"About an hour."
"No word yet."
"She called. Still on her way. Here," Kate leaned forward and plucked a cup off the coffee table. "I got you this. It's not as good as the stuff you make, but I thought you could use one." She pressed the coffee into his hands. It was warm, and soothing in his palms. He took a grateful sip, before choking.
"Tastes like turpentine and cigarette ashes." he winced, not knowing whether to spit it out or swallow.
"I told you it wasn't as good as yours."
"Kate, this is worse than the stuff at the precinct. He spit it back into the cup and began to laugh."Thank you, for the thought." She squeezed his knee, and flashed him a smile, the real one that she rarely let out. The one that made her eyes glow.
"Castle, I..." she began.
"Family of Alexis Rodgers?" came a calm voice from across the room. A young man in surgical scrubs looked around. Grabbing Kate's hand for support, Rick gulped and stood.