Disclaimer: I don't even own the computer I am writing this on, so I definitely don't own Castle.

A/N: I saw this prompt on Twitter while I was stuck on Overheard, and writing this helped me past that blockage. Then the wonderful KLFF helped to beta this – twice – and make it presentable for your consumption.

InkyCoffee's prompt: Castle runs into Josh while Kate is at Jim's cabin. Josh assumes C & B are together because she used C's ILY as a breakup excuse. – So basically 47 seconds happens before Kate gets back from the cabin.


Three weeks.

It had been three weeks – 21 days, 6 hours and 22 minutes – since Beckett told him she would call, and his phones – both cell and home, he checked almost hourly – remained stubbornly silent. He was grateful Alexis and Martha were at a spa resort, otherwise their pitying looks would have fed his already guilty conscience for failing all the women he loved.

Sick of staring at his cell phone, or his study walls, Rick headed out into the city, hoping the fresh air would clear his head. He didn't care where he was going, just that walking allowed him a change of scenery. His brain was still running on fast forward, coming up with more and more absurd scenarios for why she hadn't called yet. Maybe she had left her phone at the hospital and it was sitting in lost property. Maybe she had dropped it and it broke, and she wasn't able to go out and buy a new one. Or it had been stolen. Maybe Josh had hidden her phone, not letting her call anyone. Maybe she had been abducted by the same people who shot at her. Maybe she had actually been murdered by them! God that was an unbearable thought! But surely if that was the case someone would have notified the precinct, and the boys would have told him. She could have been abducted by aliens, as a perfect sample of the human race, although he doubted she would be in prime condition about now.

Very soon he was lost in his own head, coming up with more and more absurd scenarios for why she hadn't called yet. He was abruptly brought back to reality when someone bumped into him, started to apologize and then gasped before almost shouting "You!"

Rick looked up in surprise; the voice was familiar but not making any sense. His eyes met those of Josh Davidson, Dr Motorcycle Boy, Beckett's boyfriend and the surgeon who saved her life. Also the man who blamed Castle for getting her shot in the first place, which meant the man was probably not very happy to see him, let alone bump into him on the street. He started to apologize for not watching where he was going, hoping to keep their meeting brief, when Josh sneered at him and spoke.

"Why aren't you with Kate? At her dad's cabin? Jumping at her beck and call after telling her you loved her at the funeral? What were you thinking, saying that to another man's girlfriend?"

Rick was totally taken aback by Josh's statement, and could only grunt a short "huh?" in response.

"First you get her shot, then you tell her you love her as she's dying! You confused her so much that she broke up with me as soon as she came round! I tried to talk sense into her, but she wasn't having any of it! Told her you were probably just caught up in the moment, you couldn't possibly mean it. Rich playboy that you are, you'd get sick of her pretty quick once you got what you wanted. So why aren't you with her? Have you dumped her already? Typical egotistical bastard!"

Without waiting for a response, Josh shoved past Rick, causing him to stumble, and stormed off down the street. The bystanders who had witnessed the confrontation started to disperse, most of them giving Rick a final dirty look. He stood there for a moment more, stunned by what had just occurred, and still trying to process what Josh had said. He shook himself out of it, and headed back to the loft, to brood in private.

In his office and accompanied only by a fifth of scotch, he dissected Josh's tirade and sunk deeper into gloom. Kate had obviously heard and remembered his declaration of love, so she must have lied to him when he went to see her in the hospital. He wondered if it actually meant something to her, other than an excuse to dump Josh. But why would she do that and then not call him, or even just send him a message to say she was okay? Obviously she wasn't okay, she would still be recovering from the gunshot and the surgery, but why had she gone to her dad's cabin? Rick was fairly sure none of her friends knew where she was, so it wasn't just him she was excluding, but Lanie and the boys too.

He hoped that at least her dad was with her, making sure she ate, and rested, and didn't overwork her body, doing too much too soon, as he knew she was wont to do. When he realized he was beginning to ponder alien abductions again, he drained the last of his glass and went to bed. No sleep was forthcoming, so he tossed and turned until sheer exhaustion took him under.

The next morning, over a very strong black coffee, he determined to contact her and try to see her, and if he had no success, he would ask her dad. The man had come to ask him to stop Kate from pursuing her mother's case, and, while he had failed at that, Rick hoped he had enough goodwill with her father that he would share where they were. Perhaps he could even arrange an invitation up there.

Rick took his time showering and grooming, thinking positive thoughts about the coming conversation. When he could procrastinate no longer in the bathroom, he sat at his kitchen bench, and sent Beckett a carefully worded text.

Bumped into Josh yesterday. He expected I would be with you. Why aren't I?

He waited two hours, but didn't even get a read notification on the text, and he was sick of waiting longer, so he pulled up her dad's phone number and pressed Call. To his surprise, the man himself answered after only a couple of rings.

"Hi Rick, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Jim Beckett sounded tired, but was obviously putting on a cheery tone for him, so Rick obliged by doing the same.

"Hi Jim, I was just calling to see how Be-Kate is going?"

"Well, she was fine the last time I saw her, but she sent me home last week. Must have gotten sick of me telling her to take it easy." The tone was deliberately light, but Rick could hear the pain and fear in Jim's voice. He was also shocked that Kate was up at this cabin by herself, three weeks after being shot by a sniper.

"What do you mean, she's up at your cabin by herself? With no help, or protection? What if someone comes to finish the job? How is she even-" Jim cut him off.

"Relax son, the cabin is out of the way, and no one knows about it. Katie is too stubborn to ask for or accept help, but I stayed long enough to make sure she can do the basic things herself. I'm sure if you wanted to go visit, she would appreciate the company."

There was silence on the line while Rick processed this, the invitation he had wanted, but he was no longer sure he should accept it. Not wanting to hold Jim up any longer, he forced his voice to cheerfulness again.

"Sure, I could go and visit, take her some of her favorite coffee – she is allowed that now, right? What's the worst she can do, throw me out?" he chuckled, knowing that even Jim would be able to tell it was fake.

After a few more words were exchanged, and most importantly the address and directions to the Beckett cabin, Jim ended the call with a final admonition for Rick.

"She won't say it, but she misses you, Rick. Don't let her brood alone."

Rick stared at his phone for a while after the call disconnected. Jim seemed to have this ridiculous confidence in him being able to influence Beckett, which had multiple times been proven false. He decided that he would make one last attempt, ask Kate how she really felt about him, and if that didn't work out, he would forget her and move on. With that determination, he grabbed his keys and wallet, and headed to his car, typing the cabin address into his GPS.

It was a three hour drive to the Beckett cabin, and it gave Rick's righteous anger time to gather and overtake all his other emotions. He couldn't believe that Beckett would lie to him about remembering his words in the cemetery, and then turn around and tell her boyfriend. It may have been inappropriate for him to say that to her at that time, but he had honestly believed he may not get another chance. If she had died, he wanted the last thought she had to be a happy one, to know she was loved.

Not only had she lied to him, then she had disappeared, without telling anyone where she was going. She had blocked them all out of her life, leaving Lanie, Espo, Ryan, and himself worried sick about her condition, and helpless to know if she was even still breathing. Well, she did tell someone where she was going: Josh, her ex-boyfriend. The world-saving surgeon, who operated on her and saved her life. Why did she dump him, anyway? Of all of them, he was the best equipped to look after her while she recovered. None of this was making sense. He would confront her and finally get to the truth, and if the stubborn woman was determined to be alone, he would give her that, in spades.

The car's brakes squealed as he came to an abrupt stop in front of the Beckett cabin, but the sound didn't bring anyone out to see the disturbance, so he wondered if she was perhaps asleep. He knocked on the front door, and peeked in the windows, but the gloom and dust on the glass panes made it hard to see anything other than outlines and shadows. Still not receiving a response after a couple of minutes, Rick began to worry. Had someone beaten him here? Had the sniper somehow found Kate and finished the job? He knocked again, more desperately, then called out for her. He thought he heard a noise from around the back, so he made his way in that direction.

He found Kate sitting on a swing on the back porch, wrapped in a flannel blanket even though it was mid-summer. She was blinking her eyes, and gave the impression she had just woken up, reinforced when she startled to see him approaching the back stairs, her voice croaky and whisper-soft from disuse as she questioned him.

"Castle!? What are you doing here?"

That was all Rick needed to launch into his tirade.

"What am I doing here? What are you doing here?" He pointed an angry finger at her, winding himself up. "You ran away from everybody who cares about you, didn't tell us where you were going, or if you were okay, if you were even still alive."

Rick's voice became a roar as the pain bubbled up. "I watched you die in that ambulance, did you know that?" He rammed his hands onto his waist. "And your surgeon told us you died twice on the operating table. How the hell are we supposed to cope with your absence if the last thing Lanie, the boys or I saw of you was leaking blood all over the ER floor, and then you refused to let any of us see you for more than a minute or two after you got out of ICU!

"I thought you were just a mirage, a product of my overactive imagination, and I woke screaming and tangled in my sheets multiple times a night, because I didn't know where you were, how you were." Rick ran his hands through his hair, his frustration mussing it until it stuck up in every direction. "Did you consider anyone else but yourself when you decided to come up here? I never thought of you as selfish, Beckett, but you have proven me wrong. You only care about yourself and what you think you need, not for a second considering the feelings of anyone else.

"Your father was very surprised when I asked him for the address, that I didn't already know where you were or how to get to you. So you lied to him too. You lied to all of us. But do you know what the worst part is? I had to find out from Josh that you were up here, and then he had a go at me for telling you I loved you after you were shot! Apparently that was the excuse you used to break up with him. Don't you think it may have been better to have told me you heard me say that, rather than flipping me off with 'some things are better not remembered'? Well, don't worry, Beckett, you can forget I ever said anything because it was obviously a mistake and a heat of the moment thing!"

Rick took a deep breath and rubbed his hand down his face, visibly struggling to take control of his temper. Then he continued, his voice raw.

"Were you ever going to tell us where you had gone? Were you ever intending on coming back to the city, to your friends?" He paused and looked at her expectantly, but she was still as a stone, only her eyes betraying her pain and anguish at his words.

"Right. That tells me exactly what you think of your friends, of me. Don't worry Beckett, I'll see myself out. Goodbye."

He stomped with purposeful slowness around the side of the cabin, throwing himself into the car with a slam of the door. He felt betrayed, letting the roar of the engine mask his own growl of frustration as he pointed the car back to the main road.

Deciding to stop at a convenience store before he made the highway, he got himself a drink and tried to calm down a little. It wouldn't do for him to be driving as angry as he was right now. She didn't even deign to reply to him, or come after him, even though he deliberately walked slowly back to his car. Well, he figured that was her choice, he wouldn't go where he wasn't wanted. Of course, it would have been so much easier for all of them if she had just told him to his face.

As he returned to his car, he felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket and thinking that maybe Alexis had found his hastily scrawled note and was checking up on him, he pulled it out and woke the screen.

If you actually want an answer to all those questions you need to come back because I can't move and can hardly breathe. Please let me explain. Kate

Once he'd got over the shock, Rick was back in his car and heading towards the cabin so fast he might as well have been shot out of a canon. What an idiot he'd been! How could he have forgotten that she had died three times - three! - And been in life saving surgery only three weeks ago! Blood rushed to his neck and ears, the shame creeping down his spine. Who was he to have yelled at her, been angry at her, and made her life and recovery harder? All the things he had yelled at her about being selfish now returned to haunt him like a phantom cat o' nine tails with which to flog himself.

As soon as he reached the driveway he jumped out of the car, only just managing to put it into park, as he barrelled out and sprinted around the back of the cabin, skidding as he fell to his knees at her feet, whispering I'm sorry, I'm sorry, the whole time.

After a few moments Kate couldn't bear it anymore, and she reached forward to touch the top of his head, telling him to stop. He sat back on his heels, his wan face looking up at her, matching tear tracks on their cheeks. She saw him grimace as he surely noticed the lines of pain etched deeply into her face, and the stiff way she was holding herself. Kate felt she could see what he was thinking, and she let the side of her mouth lift just a little, as she shook her head.

"Don't beat yourself up Castle, I probably… no, I definitely deserved that. I shouldn't have run away, but I couldn't cope with all your concerns, it was all too much." She took a labored breath. "And I am sorry that you had to hear from Josh that I heard you, but when I first woke up I wasn't sure I didn't dream it, my own version of wishful thinking. I should have broken up with him a lot sooner, definitely after our trip to LA, but I was a coward, and then so many things happened all at once with our fight, the hangar, and then the funeral. "

She could see his focused attention, and the hope blooming on his face since she said hearing him say he loved her was her wishful thinking, but she had to let him down gently.

"By the time of the funeral, I was ready for there to be an us… and I did mean for it to be you standing by my side, but the bullet shattered that. I am so far from ready now, Castle, and I don't expect you to wait-…"

"But I will Kate, as long as you need."

She looked at him, seeing nothing but sincerity in his eyes, and knew that the least he deserved from her now was complete honesty, no more subtext or innuendo.

"Okay, Castle, let's park that for now. I'm really tired, and I need to take my medication. Can you help me inside? We can talk more a bit later, if you can stay?"

Castle was nodding and scrambling up, brushing dirt from his knees before she even finished her request, the brief flash of fear when she said she was tired disappearing when he realized she wasn't sending him away again. She was actually asking for his help, and after admitting she wanted the two of them together, he would do almost anything for her.

He helped her inside the cabin, taking a perfunctory glance around to get his bearings, but she gave him directions to her bedroom, and where her medication could be found. Once she was settled, he got her some water out of the fridge, noticing it was packed with healthy food: lean meat, vegetables and a couple of pre-cooked dishes. He wanted to ask who had prepared the food, but she was already fading as he returned to her side. After taking her meds and a few sips of water, she smiled at him softly and patted the bed next to her as she moved to lie down. He was stunned at first, but nodded, and walked around the other side to sit up against the headboard, toeing off his shoes and flicking the last spots of dirt from his knees. He found a couple of books on the bedside table, and as he chose one to flick through, he stole a glance at Kate, who had moved her hand to his thigh and was breathing evenly, obviously asleep.

Kate woke, apparently nightmare-free and refreshed, a couple of hours later, opening her eyes to see Castle looking at her. She smiled again, and gave his leg a squeeze, then began the arduous task of getting to the bathroom. Castle immediately jumped up and ran around the bed, helping to lift her up and guiding her to the bathroom, where she shut the door firmly in his face. Fair enough, they weren't that close, just yet. When she finished, he helped her out to the lounge and lowered her gently onto the big family couch, asking if she wanted another pillow, or some water, or some music on, or anything else. Kate found his rambling cute, but cut him off.

"It's okay, Castle, this is fine for now. Stop fussing, and sit down. Looking up at you is giving me a kink in my neck."

He huffed and waggled his eyebrows, but complied.

"Just… let me explain."

She waited for his nod, twisting her fingers together as she decided where to start.

"As I told you earlier, when I first woke up I didn't remember what you'd said to me. Everything from the cemetery was a blur. All I had were flashes, images of you, the sky, the grass, and the other guests, all overlaid with terrible pain and a rushing in my ears like a hurricane." Kate took a deep breath, trying to push the mental pain away as she exhaled. "I didn't tell Josh that you had told me you loved me. He must have been sitting by my side while I slept, because he told me I called out to you in my sleep, and said 'I love you too'." She blushed, flicking her eyes up to him quickly, but then stared at her hands again, finding it too hard to look at him for too long.

"He obviously assumed from that what you had said, and I didn't deny it. How could I, when I wasn't sure then if it was real? But, I admit, it was a convenient excuse to finally break it off with him, and for that I'm sorry. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you, or get you in trouble with my ex-boyfriend." She lifted an eyebrow at him, significantly weaker than her normal effort, "Or should I say 'more' trouble?"

He cleared his throat, his ears tinged with pink. "You heard about our little altercation in the emergency room, did you?"

"Yeah, Dad told me about it. And Castle, it's not true. It's not your fault I was shot, it's mine. Yes, you re-opened my mother's case, but I was the one who chased after it, and didn't listen to anyone about being safe." Kate lifted her hand to press against the healing scar on her ribs. "Dad also told me he went to see you the night before the funeral, to ask you to talk me out of it. I was angry at him at first, but then I realised he was trying to look after me, just like you have been, for the last few years. So I'm sorry for that too, Castle, for throwing you out of my apartment that night."

Castle shrugged, but she shook her head with a soft smile.

"I mean it, Castle. I wouldn't have found Coonan without you, I wouldn't have any leads without your persistence, and I honestly appreciate it. I may not have been very good at showing you before now, but I'm so grateful you came into my life, and I want you to be part of it going forward. I just need to get myself better first, get back to the precinct and work on my issues, before I ruin the most important relationship in my life." With that, she definitely blushed, and leant her head forward so her hair covered her face.

Castle reached over, tucking the hair behind her ear with his gentle fingers, and caught her eyes before speaking.

"Kate, you have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that. I absolutely respect that you want to get yourself better, but please don't shut me out in the meantime. It's been hell for me the last three weeks, not knowing where you were, if you were still alive, waiting for your call. I understand you need time and I don't expect you to jump straight into another relationship, but, please, let me be your friend, let me help you. Because that'll help me too."

Kate scanned his face, taking in the new creases on his face, the dark smudges under his eyes. She wondered if he had been having nightmares too. It nearly broke her heart knowing the answer was almost certainly yes.

She knew that even though he needed people to look after, he would absolutely respect whatever boundaries she felt she needed to place on their partnership while she recuperated. She didn't want to ask him to wait for her, because she had no idea how long it would take her to get back to how she had been, or if that was even possible, but if they were open with each other and helped each other, perhaps the wait wouldn't be too long. Finally she nodded, and then, realizing that he had looked away with his shoulders slumped, spoke aloud.

"Okay, Castle, I think we can do that." His head whipped round, an expression of amazement on his face at which Kate couldn't help but smile. "But I have always healed in private before, so please bear with me while I get used to this new arrangement. I'll probably yell and growl at you if I'm in pain, and I'm going to have to rely on you a lot more than I've ever relied on anyone while I recover. Think you're up for that?"

"As long as you let me be with you Kate, I'm up for anything. And you need to tell me if I'm hovering too much, or fussing, because that's what I tend to do, and I know it makes Alexis crazy sometimes... But it's going to be great, Kate, just you wait."

They both chuckled at his inadvertent rhyme.

Not everything was fixed, but they had found a solid place to start.

The End