Here it is, folks, the last chapter of this story. This one didn't seem to garner the attention my previous stories did and if I apologize if you all didn't like it as much. I did want to thank I'm Widget for being the only person to review the previous 2 chapters and for those of you who subscribed to this story.
I tried to delve into Alexis's feelings in this chapter and hope she didn't come off as too whiny. Please let me know if you think I wasn't true to her character.
As I've said already, thank you for your support of this story and enjoy the conclusion!
"Your turn, Rick," Jim Beckett said to Castle, and all his contentment immediately evaporated. Holding Beckett bleeding and unconscious in his arms was one thing, but seeing her lying unconscious in a hospital bed with nothing keeping her alive but machines was another. He swallowed hard and shot a look in the direction of his mother and daughter.
"Go on, dear. You two deserve some privacy," Martha answered and grinned encouragingly. Castle shook Jim's hand and headed towards the ICU, lost in thought and dreading what he was about to see.
Alexis and Martha watched him go and sat down on the sofa in the waiting area that was previously occupied by Ryan and Jenny. Martha went to wrap her arm around Alexis' shoulders and noticed her slumping, almost pouting.
"Are you alright, dear?"
"Yes and no," the teenager sighed and began rambling. "Well, I'm glad that Detective Beckett didn't die and is doing ok considering that she was shot in the chest, and I know it's selfish and terrible of me to feel this way, but I'm worried now that Dad told her he loved her that he'll be spending even less time at home and more time not just at the precinct but also with Detective Beckett in general and I really want him to be happy and I like Detective Beckett, but…"
"But you're not sure you want to share him even with her?" Martha asked, already knowing what the answer would be. Alexis grimaced and nodded slowly.
"Oh darling, that's only natural! Look at us, we've both had him to ourselves for a long time now, so it is going to take some getting used to, having a new woman in your father's life in that way. But let's keep this in perspective. You remember Beckett does have a boyfriend, don't you?" Alexis nodded, slightly confused at what her grandmother was getting at.
"Well, don't you think worrying about what will happen between her and your father if she's still with someone is putting the proverbial cart before the horse?" The dawn of realization washed over Alexis and she brightened some. "Let's just take it a day at time, alright? To be honest, I have doubted your father's taste in women in the past, but this time…this time will be different. Once those two figure out how they feel about each other and are ready to admit it, the rest will work itself out. But don't you forget you will always be a priority in your father's life."
Alexis leaned over and melted into her Grandmother's arms. "I want Dad to be happy so much, but I also don't want him to get hurt," the teenager mumbled on Martha's shoulder.
"How do you mean? Physically hurt or emotionally?"
"Well, as for the physical, I've already spoken to him about that and as much as I don't like it and worry every time he walks out the door to the precinct, he's willing to take the risk because it will help Kate and her friends. If Ashley was in a similar situation as Kate and you could help him like your father does, then wouldn't you?"
Alexis nodded, seeing Martha's point. "As for getting hurt emotionally, well, I think that's the last thing on Beckett's priority list. That girl cares about your father, but she's got to figure it out on her own."
Alexis nodded again. "One day at a time," she repeated.
"Exactly, dear." Martha put her arm Alexis' shoulders and the younger Castle leaned in and dropped her head on the older woman's shoulder.
Meanwhile, Castle entered the ICU and didn't need any help finding Beckett's bed. He spied it from the other end of the large room and headed straight for it, tuning out any and all noises around him. His attention was completely focused the beautiful face lying prone and quiet in the hospital bed. He reassured himself by watching her chest rise and fall evenly and listening to the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor, meaning she was still alive, just in a different place. His eyes followed the green line on the screen as it traced the heart's activity and, though he wasn't a religious man, he silently thanked the Man Upstairs that it wasn't a straight line from one side of the screen to the other.
He turned his gaze to Beckett's face, that gorgeous face that normally reflected so much life. He expected her brow to furrow adorably as it did when she was concentrating on the murder board or listening to a witness. He hoped one of her eye brows would lift in warning that he had crossed a line, or her bottom lip would tuck itself underneath her upper lip in sympathy with a victim's family member, or her mouth would transform into her million-dollar smile that he never tired of seeing. But most of all, he wanted her beautiful eyes to open, those deep dark eyes that above all her other qualities had first gotten his attention. He wished for nothing more than to see them again, to lose himself in them, to do whatever he could to sweep away the lingering pain that was kept hidden behind the fierce determination and occasional playfulness.
He reached down and covered her left hand with his right, entwining his fingers around hers, and held it tight. He thought maybe his touch would be enough to make her eyes open, but he was disappointed. He looked down at the long, elegant fingers wrapped around his and wanted to speak, but could not find words. He began massaging the soft area between her thumb and forefinger with his own thumb, hoping that would work, but again to no avail. Finally figuring out the words he sought, he looked her in the face and spoke.
"I still love you, Kate. I always will, always. But if Josh being with Josh is what makes you happy and you're not ready for anything else, then that's fine with me. As much as I want to hug away your fear and pain, I know you need time and forcing you to figure it out before you're ready won't do any good. So take your time. I'll be around. Always."
He lifted her hand to his lips with his left hand and pressed a soft kiss to her fingers. He then laid her arm and hand back on the bed where it had been before his visit, but did not yet drop his grip. He stood, deliberately not looking at Beckett's face, and took a half-step away towards the entrance to the ICU, but felt something pull him back. Her grip on his hand had tightened and that only meant one thing. His head snapped back to look at her, and to his astonishment, her eyes were half open. He moved back to the bed, holding her hand in both of his again and keeping his eyes fixed on hers.
He leaned over her and could see recognition in her face. As he gazed into her brown orbs, he saw them dance slightly and light up just as they did whenever they'd both cracked a case wide open. His heart skipped a few beats as he realized brain damage did not seem to be a worry.
"Hey, Kate," he said, his eyes glistening.
Slowly, her brow furrowed as if she was either in pain or confused and she shut her eyes. Even though she could not speak because of the oxygen mask, he shushed her, telling her to rest, and lovingly shifted a few strands of hair away from her face. There would be plenty of time for them to talk in the coming days and weeks. His hand brushed her cheek and he could see her taut facial muscles relax.
Rest now, my beautiful, Kate. You're going to be fine.
He separated her hand from his and, grinning widely, exited the ICU with a spring in his step.
He got back to his loft late that evening and found Alexis and Martha in their pajamas reading on the couch. He resolved to join them and headed for his office through which his bedroom was located. As he passed his desk, he noticed a stack of mail piled next to his laptop. Near the top of the stack was a thick letter-sized manila envelope that had been hand addressed in a familiar style of penmanship. He picked up the envelope and looked at it with foreboding.
I know who sent this to me. But why?
He heard the house phone ring, but rather than make an effort to answer it, he slumped down in his desk chair and opened the envelope. Inside was a hand-written note from Captain Montgomery and a small stack of files. Reading the note didn't take long, as it was short, but once he finished, his body had gone numb with the implications of what he now held in his possession.
Hearing footsteps approach, he slipped the envelope onto his lap and hopefully out of sight.
"Dad, it's the police department for you," Alexis informed him, peering around the doorway. "are you ok? You look like you've just seen a ghost."
"Yeah, I'm fine honey," Castle covered. "It's just been a long day. I guess I shouldn't have stayed at the hospital as long as I did. No worries, ok?"
Feeling mollified, Alexis relaxed and made to head back to the living room and her reading. "Don't forget about the phone call, Dad," she reminded.
"Oh, right. Thanks." Castle answered and picked up the cordless phone on his desk. "Richard Castle."
"Yes hello," The voice greeted. It was female, seemed to be older, and was clear but resolute. Castle immediately sensed that this was not the voice of a person you wanted to cross. "I apologize for calling so late, Mr. Castle, and I know you've had a long day, but my name is Anita Van Buren and as I'm the new commander of the 12th precinct Homicide Division, I just wanted to introduce myself and ask if we could meet at some point tomorrow to discuss your current…arrangement ."
How do you like that little surprise, huh? I can't see S. Epatha Merkerson taking or being offered the part of the new Captain, but the thought just popped into my head, so I decided to have a little fun with it. Reviews, as always, are appreciated.