"Kate Beckett, please," Richard Castle asked the nurse on duty, feeling butterflies build in his stomach, something that hadn't happened to him for a long time. Sure, he was worried about his unofficial partner, but there was another reason. The thing that had nagged at the back of his mind ever since the hospital called in to say that Beckett was going to be fine.
Had she remembered?
If he closed his eyes, he could almost re-live that one moment of panic, when he thought that he was going to lose Kate forever. He had said the words. The three words that he had said before, to other women within dating terms, but had never really meant. As far as he was concerned, those words were just things to be found in books. A fantasy. People never really fell in love anymore. But that was before he met Beckett.
Looking back he remembered their first case together. He had kissed her on the cheek (her hair was much shorter, then), and walked out the door with her case-files. Less than an hour later she arrested him in his apartment for theft of government property, but by then the handcuffs were a familiar feel on his wrists, though they hadn't been there since. It's not a good idea to get arrested when you have a crush on a cop.
"Sir? Sir!" the nurse asked, trying to get his attention. Castle snapped back to reality, realizing that he had been staring off into space. He looked back at her.
"Yes?" he asked, feeling guilty. He was here for Beckett now, not three years ago.
"She's in room 203. Here's your ID," she handed him a sticker with his name typed onto it. Now focused on the awkward conversation that lay ahead, Castle pressed it to his jacket and drifted off down the hall, not realizing that he hadn't even told the nurse his name. He also didn't realize that she would spend the next three weeks imagining the conversation that could have been with her favorite author.
He somehow navigated around the hospital, not really paying attention to where his feet were taking him. After what seemed like hours, he wound up on the second floor in front of a room marked 203. The hallways up here were nearly empty, the rooms mostly filled with recovery patients, while all the traumas and surgery rooms lay downstairs for easy-access. Castle had never studied a hospital layout much, not really into writing Grey's Anatomy soap opera type stuff.
Diverting his thoughts back to Beckett, Castle was furious with himself like a mother might be furious with her selfish child. In his apartment, it was all he could do to take his mind off of Beckett. Now that he was here, he was constantly thinking about other things. Who cared about how a hospital was laid out? His mother's words came back to him, "Don't waste another minute of it." Well, he had, and it got Beckett shot. Now he had wasted another four months, and she might not even remember. He was a procrastinator, and a coward, for not being able to say it to her face. To hell with the 'right moment.' He should've been able to drive down to her place, apologize, and admit his feelings. But he hadn't.
Taking a deep breath, Castle pushed open the cold metal door and stepped into Beckett's recovery room, which had that doctor-y smell to it that made you think that someone had nothing better to do than sterilize things all day. Beckett was propped up on the bed; bandages wrapped thickly around her middle and busy hunched over a book. As the door shut behind him, she looked up, smiling.
"Hey, Castle," she said, putting the book off to the side. With a quick glance, he saw that it was one of the Nikki Heat books. Figures, he thought.
"Hey," he replied, his voice catching a bit, making it sound raspy. He cleared his throat. "So, um, how you doing?"
"Castle, please do not pretend that that is why you came," she said, showing that she had lost none of her feminine charm. He brightened up a bit.
"You remember?" he asked, plopping himself down on a nearby chair.
"No, Castle, I don't remember anything," she replied, shaking her head, the hint of a smile on her face. He looked over at her, confused. Was she being sarcastic?
"And you can go and tell Ryan and Esposito that, too,"
"What are you talking about?"
"They called me last month," she said, her teeth now showing in a full smile. "Said it was 'for the case.'"
"Is there even a case left?" he asked, forgetting the reason he came amidst classic detective-talk.
Beckett's smile instantly faded, and she looked away. Castle knew that he had hit a nerve. Ryan and Esposito were obviously at a dead end, and no closer solving Beckett's mom's case. "Sorry," he apologized.
"It's fine," she sniffed, staring at her blankets.
"You know, Kate, maybe you should just leave this alone, like Montgomery─"
"Please, Castle, don't start that again," she interrupted, looking at him. In a flash he remembered their fight, the one that had nearly gotten him kicked off the police force. He nodded, looking away.
They were both quiet for a moment, lost in remembering the events of the past months. Even though they had both been carrying guns around, shouting "NYPD!" and busting down doors for quite some time, the entire dilemma was a little too much to bear.
"So," Beckett spoke up, her thoughts venturing into territories that she would prefer to keep untouched, at least for the present moment, with the present person. Especially with the present person. You never knew when it could just all come spilling out…and on hospital surveillance, too. "How are your books coming?"
"What? Oh, fine," he replied. He had pretty much decided to give up on the Nikki Heat books some time ago, not finding any new ideas, thinking it more respectful to leave the entire Joanna Beckett situation alone. It just seemed wrong to weave a person's personal affairs into a story, especially when it could be life-threatening. That last case had proved as much.
"Well, I should, um, get back to Alexis," he said, standing up out of the chair. The conversation was as good as over, anyways.
"Kay. See you," Beckett replied, watching as he went out the door.
In the hallways, Castle sighed and leaned against the wall. She doesn't remember, he kept thinking. She doesn't…remember. As it sunk in, he found himself just wanting to wake up and imagine that the past three years were all a dream. No Beckett, no Esposito and Ryan, not even Captain Montgomery, though there wasn't one, anyways. Not anymore.
* * *
In the recovery room, Beckett lay back against the too-fluffy pillow, and let her thoughts runs free. All of this had happened so quickly, a sense of unreality had washed over her. She wasn't sure of exactly what she felt anymore, whether she was scared, surprised, or just taking life as it came, never really letting it sink in all the way. It didn't help that she couldn't remember anything after the shot rang out, not even pain. She couldn't have been unconscious, not that early after being hit, but the memory just wasn't there. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and let sleep succumb.
Kate, stay with me!
What? Beckett's vision grew blurry around the edges, and she looked straight into Castle's eyes, which were clouded with fear.
Stay with me, Kate!
Was this…back at the funeral? Was this that missing piece from her memory? Her brain was feeling so groggy; she really couldn't think anymore, just let herself get lost in his eyes…
Kate! Don't leave me, Kate!
Beckett snapped back to attention. He cared. She had always known that. He had proven it time and time again, when he had jumped a would-be Beckett-killer, when he had dragged her away from Montgomery, though she had protested, it wouldn't have mattered if she'd been with her captain or not; the only difference was that she would be dead. She didn't know what had transpired in the warehouse between being pushed out the hanger door, and wrestling herself back inside to find Roy at his last breaths. But, now she knew, whatever had happened was just for him to face, alone. Oh, Castle. You saved my life.
Kate…I love you.
She looked at him. I love you, too.
* * *
Still nestled into her pillow, Beckett's eyes flung open faster than a gunshot. Her stomach still stung from the imaginary wound, the way it had felt four months ago, fresh from the
bullet. Her forehead was soaked with perspiration.
* * *
"So, how's Beckett?" Alexis asked from the kitchen counter as Rick thumped down the stairs the next morning. He had been out pretty late to start with, and had taken his time driving home, wishing for the first time that his car wasn't a bright-red Ferrari. From behind her coffee cup his mother, Martha, eyed him. She knew about his entire emotional situation, but then again, all mothers usually do.
"Oh, fine," he said, hoping that the dark circles under his eyes weren't as noticeable as they were in the bathroom mirror. "Just fine…"
"You know, Richard," Martha began, a look on her face that read You know you're in trouble I'm not going to say it for you. "I think that you should get out a little more, get your mind off this whole…event." She twirled her hands through the air as she spoke, an old habit picked up from her acting years.
Castle thought about Ryan and Esposito, stuck at the NYPD building all summer, basically at a roadblock with the whole case. A new captain still hadn't been assigned, since the September to May force was technically 'off-duty' for the summer. But still, they had been there regular work hours the past four months, working their butts off for Beckett, while he sat at home, wrapped up in his depression.
"You know what?" he said, looking at his mother. "I just think I might."
* * *
"I see you finally decided to show up," Detective Ryan said, hunched over a computer next to his partner, Esposito.
"You got anything?" Castle asked, sitting down opposite them.
"No…this is about our fiftieth time going through the security cameras," Esposito replied, sitting back in the chair.
"His idea," Ryan said, nodding his head toward his partner.
"What are we even doing, we're homicide detectives," Esposito complained, clearly bored.
"Not that we want a homicide," Ryan snapped back, still staring intently at the screen.
"How long have you two been at this?" Castle asked, trying to get a look at the screen.
"Yeah, how long have you not been?" Esposito retorted. They were both definitely on-edge.
"How many security cameras have you had to go through?" he asked, ignoring the remark.
"Just one, on a squad car. Very nice image," Ryan answered, pointing to the blurry image of a far away Castle leaning over Beckett. The camera's range didn't go anywhere near where the shooter would have been.
"And you guys have been looking at this all summer?" Castle asked, incredulous.
"And you haven't been," Esposito snipped.
"Shut up, dude," Ryan said, exasperated. If they were getting tired of putting up with each other, Castle reasoned, this case obviously must not have been getting very far. Or the Beckett-getting-shot thing put them on guard.
"Are there any other cameras in the cemetery?" Castle asked.
"Why would there be security cameras in a cemetery?" Esposito asked, folding his arms.
"Did you at least check?"
The guys shared a glance. "I told you," Ryan said, an irritated yet triumphant tone to his voice.
"There are never cameras in a cemetery," Esposito muttered, sliding up to the computer, and began typing furiously. Before long, images as angles only security cameras would be at began loading onto the screen, with short titles underneath them. "Well, I'll be damned," he said, clearly defeated.
Shoving Esposito aside, Ryan took the mouse and scrolled through camera footage. "Here," he said, and clicked on an image with the caption Cam5-16//1200=2400. WindowsMedia Player opened up, and Ryan slid the timer about two hours into the footage until a fuzzy picture of Montgomery's funeral appeared, with a nice view of the gravestones in the background.
"I can't believe we didn't find this. We might've actually gotten some time off this summer," Ryan said wistfully, clicking the sideways triangle. As it played, Castle kept an eye on the numerous, nearly identical headstones, looking for anything moving that shouldn't be. Then, as the camera-version of him slammed into Beckett, he saw a burst a light out to the side, then something dressed in black run off. It was only made creepier by the fact that the video was black and white and had no sound.
"Wait, stop! Go back," he commanded, Ryan doing so until the picture showed him mid-dive. "There," he pointed at the black-clad person, now frozen on the screen. "That's the guy."
"Okay, so, we're at this all summer, only find one video, then you're here for five minutes and suddenly we have a whole stock of footage?" Esposito asked, shaking his head.
"It's the Beckett thing," Ryan replied, zooming up on the man's face. "You're with her long enough, and it rubs off…"
"Or maybe just the writer thing," Castle intervened, but proud nonetheless. It seemed that three years of Beckett had paid off, though not necessarily in the way that he had first hoped, the more Shakespearean-driven way. "So. You guys know when she gets out?"
"Who, Beckett? I don't know, the meds have to release her or something," Esposito answered, folding his arms and leaning on the desk as Ryan messed with the image some more.
"She seemed fine to me,"
"Yeah?" he smiled like a little boy with a dirty secret. "You didn't see this." He gestured to his middle area.
"And you did, Javier?" Ryan chastised, swinging around to face them.
"Did you get the ID?" Castle asked, getting back to the point.
"If this guy is professional, he'll probably have a whole thing of fake IDs. Plus, he most likely hasn't been caught, so he wouldn't be in the database," Ryan answered, turning to him.
"Isn't that the kind of thinking that got us here for four months?" Esposito interrupted, glaring at him.
"Fine," Ryan sighed, spinning back around to the computer and clicking on a link in the corner of the desktop. A list of names began rolling down the screen, but no picture popped up.
"It's a dead end," Ryan said, shaking his head, and then looked up at Castle. "So what now?"
Castle exhaled, disappointed. "I don't know."
* * *
Beckett sat up on her bed, not bothering to try and distract herself. What had happened was too bizarre to comprehend, even for Little Miss Murder. Or kitten. Or muse. Or every other name that Castle had called her that had been received with threats, slaps, kicks, cuffs, and an array of other physical retorts. She tried to go through every single provocative thing he had said, to get a piece of him with her.
How long had she felt it? Ever since he sat on the other side of the interrogation table in front of her? Saying "I'm not asking for the bodies, just the pictures"?
She couldn't exactly remember the day clearly. It was fuzzy in her brain, a three year old memory. She remembered that she didn't have the weight on her shoulders that she did now, whether it was from her mother's case, Castle shadowing her, or even her own hair, which was certainly much longer now. But there was something…something that had stirred inside of her ever since his playboy self had began coming into her life. Trying to get rid of him was a mistake. He was as much a part of it now as her mother was. Everything else, Josh, Montgomery, even Ryan and Esposito could be taken away.
Beckett felt as if she had been struck by lightning when she thought of Josh. How would she tell him? That there was a slight chance that she was in love with someone else, but she wasn't exactly sure enough about it yet? She could just break up with him, but he was smart enough to know that she had reasons. All homicide detectives do.
She just decided to let it go and leave it for when the time comes. She was better thinking up words off of the top of her head, in the moment, not beforehand. That was one of the reasons she did so well in the interrogation room. She trusted her instincts, not that little nerve that had the ability to plan beforehand. Castle obviously had both, if he was a writer and managed to bring down a scattered slew of criminals at a moment's notice, even if it was only turning on the windshield wipers.
Beckett smiled at that particular incident, although it was quite some time ago. She could almost hear his voice, "I tried to stay in the car, I really did." Apparently he had been playing Green Hornet inside the police cruiser while she went to bust a killer, who eventually ended up on the car hood after jumping a fire escape. She remembered the countless times when he had made her smile on the inside, when he answered his door dressed in a laser tag outfit, kept accidentally sitting in her chair, caught her red-handed reading the Nikki Heat sex scene in the women's bathroom─ she still hadn't figured out how he had gotten into the stall─ let her sleep over when her apartment had been blown up, ripped all of the cords out of a bomb to try and defuse it…with that particular case, she had been so close to telling him, near death in a freezer, though she had hesitated a moment too late, still unsure, and passed out from hypothermia.
Beckett was beginning to feel very regretful at this point. Too much time had been wasted, playing the only woman who wouldn't fall in love with a playboy writer. And it turns out, she had been all along.
* * *
"Do you really think they can let her out of the hospital?" Ryan asked as Esposito dialed.
"Dude, it's been four months. They're gonna have to give her up sometime," his partner replied, wedging the receiver between his shoulder and ear, busy with a notepad and pen in his hands if it backfired and they could only talk to Beckett.
Someone picked up the phone mid-ring. "Hello, New York Presbyterian Hospital, how can I help you?" a voice said on the other end.
Esposito was at a loss. "Hello this is…" he paused, looking to Ryan. His partner mouthed detective like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"This is Detective Esposito in the…NYPD, we were checking to see if Kate, er, Katherine Beckett can be let go?" he continued shakily, like either he was unfamiliar with business calls or because this one was so personal.
"Let me check…" the nurse said, followed by a slight pause. "Yes, the doctors are just making sure that she's stable. Then she'll be returning home with her father for awhile," she concluded, "Are you friends of hers?"
"Well, um, we're her, uh," he glanced at Ryan. "Co-workers."
"Alright, then. Anything else?" she asked cheerfully, despite the fact that Esposito sounded like he was suspiciously making stuff up.
"Um, no, thanks," he said, and hung up immediately. "I'll tell ya, that was probably the worst call I've ever made in my life," he stated, turning to Ryan, who looked pissed.
"Well?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest.
"They're letting her go back to her apartment with her dad," Esposito relayed, sinking back in the swivel chair. "So…do we just go and see her?"
"Nah, she'll be up here in no time,"
* * *
"Dad, are you alright?" Alexis asked, sitting down on the couch beside Castle, back at his apartment. He was going through his iTunes list on his laptop, for really no particular reason. Just to keep his mind off things, he guessed.
"Yeah. I'm fine," he sighed, rubbing his forehead.
"No, you're not," she contradicted, smiling as she cuddled next to him. "What are you doing?"
"Just…looking at songs," he replied, putting an arm around her. She knew him so well; he didn't know what he would do without her when she went to college.
"Ooh, I like this one," she said, tucking her legs underneath her and pointing to one as he scrolled down the list.
"I think you put that on there," he said, smiling as he played it.
Alexis rested her head on his shoulder as she listened. Castle felt a pang as it reminded him of Beckett. Of him and Beckett, actually. He always avoided turning on the radio as every song it played seemed to have the same effect, no matter what it was about. That made him wonder; so what was he doing on iTunes?
The song continued to play as his old screensaver popped up: You should be writing. Castle snapped back to reality as it reminded him of the present, not so much the writing part.
"Shouldn't you be getting to bed?" he asked Alexis, heaving himself up from the couch.
"Yeah, I guess," she got up and kissed him on the cheek. "'Night, Dad."
"Goodnight," he repeated, sitting down at his desk as she headed upstairs. Once again lost in thought, Castle wondered about his screensaver. Maybe he should be writing. When he was fourteen, it had been an outlet for all of his emotions. Maybe it still was.
He re-opened his laptop, and began typing away, not even really thinking about his words. It wasn't about Nikki Heat, or any other fictional characters that he had ready to his liking, but instead he tried to write about Beckett's point of view. It was the only thing he could think of, to try and get inside Beckett's head, maybe change some mentalities to suit him, making her secretly enjoy his constant misgivings while acting harsh on the outside, which she usually did. And, he had to admit, it was fun guessing what she would and wouldn't do, filling things that he didn't and probably never would know, making a story to his liking, although cautious to keep it separated from reality. He had done the same to countless other people he had met, changed their personalities to only what he wanted to see in them, making a cloud of words to hide what was really there. No matter what, he was not going to do that to Beckett, but it helped to get all the pressure off of him, made him feel like someone knew his troubles. Like someone understood.