Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
A/N Although I mentioned the prompt for this story at the end of the previous chapter, I inadvertently omitted this note at the top of it: "This story springs from a terrific prompt by Roadrunnerz."
Lanie was the one who had persuaded him to go home. "Kate won't come round for hours and hours," she'd said. "I think we should all try to be at our best when that happens, okay?"
Reluctantly, he'd agreed. He'd invited Jim Beckett to come back with him to the loft, but he'd insisted on staying. Thanks to Lanie's medical credentials, Jim had been allowed to have a cot in the spartan "nap room" for interns and residents. She'd tried to get him to take a sleeping pill, but he'd refused. Maybe as a recovering alcoholic he's still leery of something like that.
He won't take one, either, but only because when he wakes–if he ever manages to sleep–he wants his mind to be as clear as possible. He's lying on his back on Kate's side of the bed, not his, because it smells of her. When will she be back here next to him? Will she ever be back here next to him? What if she loses her leg? The doctor hadn't said anything about that, had he? Surely he'd have picked up on that. Wouldn't he? Or did he hear it and reject it? He'd seen her leg, and he wonders. But far worse, what if the concussion has caused brain damage? What if her beautiful, remarkable mind is so beyond repair that she can no longer speak? What if she's unable to read? What if she no longer understands that she's loved?
The last thought in the eviscerating chain of thoughts makes him roll onto his side and curl up, his hands trapped between his knees. He'd thought he was all cried out, but he's not. His usual optimism has deserted him, and he has to get it back. For Kate. "You know one of the things I love most about you?" she'd told him a few days ago. "You're the sunny side of the street." It had taken him completely and happily by surprise. He squeezes his eyes closed, but the only thing behind his lids is a dark street with a burning car and the love of his life trapped under chunks of it. There is no happiness. There is no sun.
He wakes up to a quiet room and a dry mouth, hauls himself out of bed and looks out the window. It's quiet in here because it's quiet out there: it's snowing, hard. A quick check of his phone reveals nothing except the time, 7:21. There have been no emails, no texts, no voicemails. In the shower, he reaches for his shampoo and pulls his hand back: he'll use hers, instead. He shaves and dresses quickly, and while standing in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, bleakly considers whom he should call first.
"Lanie," he texts, "please call when you get the chance. Thank you."
He texts again. "Did you sleep at all?"
Are the boys awake? He's closer to Ryan, so he texts and asks him to be in touch, too, but deletes it before hitting send. That can wait.
He should eat something, but it might not stay down. No. N-o. If he's going to rebuild his optimism, his sunny-side-of-the-streetness, he needs fuel. Toast and a poached egg should get him started. Better yet, toast and a sunny-side-up egg. Yes. Y-e-s. Bite four is on his fork when the phone rings.
"How's our girl?"
"There's good news about the pneumothorax. The doctors reinflated her lung and she's breathing better."
"I'm on my way."
"You should wait."
"Why? You said there was good news."
"Because she hasn't been out of surgery for long."
The fork slips from his hand and sends the rest of his sunny-side-up egg upside-down onto the floor. "Surgery? She had surgery? Jesus, Lanie. Why? Brain surgery? What?"
"No, no, no. Shhh. On her leg. With a compound fracture like that the risk of infection is really high. They had to operate as soon as they could. It went well. The orthopedist's very optimistic."
"Optimistic? What does that mean?" It feels as if a steamroller is sitting on his chest.
"That she'll regain full use of her leg. It'll be a long, tough rehab, but she's the toughest person I know."
Grabbing the edge of the counter to keep himself from winding up on the tiles like the fork and the egg, he says, "I'm coming. Now. I'd rather worry there than worry here."
"I guess I'm not going to be able to talk you out of it. Please, don't worry too much. This is the best trauma center in the city, maybe the country. Her doctors are phenomenal."
The terrible weather sends him to the subway, where he makes much better time than he would by any other means. He's empty-handed, and he hates it. But there's nothing he can bring to the ICU, including the dozens of flowers that he wishes he could put on every surface of the room. Could she have ear buds? She could listen to music. Music is a great healer, in so many ways. As he trudges one short block and two long from the subway station to the hospital, he cheers up a bit, thinking about everything that he could download for her. Just before reaching the door he tilts his head back to let the snow fall on his face, and that lifts his mood, too. It always has.
When he gets to the lobby Lanie is waiting for him by the information desk and wraps him in a hug. "Let's get some coffee, Castle. You look like you could use it and I sure as hell could. You won't be able to see Kate for at least an hour, probably two."
After they settle in on a pair of molded plastic chairs in the cafeteria, she explains to him in layperson's terms as much as she can. She'd stayed overnight in the hospital, too, she says, in part because she wanted to help Jim if he needed it. "I was with him when the doctors spoke to him earlier."
"How's he doing?"
"He's holding up pretty well. Better than I would in his position."
There's only so much reassurance Lanie can give him, and on the elevator ride upstairs, he feels apprehension wash over him, and tries to will it away. She leaves him in the waiting room with a promise of letting him know the instant he can see Kate. Beaten-up back issues of an array of magazines have no interest for him, but he has to do something, so he takes out his phone and starts checking the credentials of every one of Kate's doctors. He is momentarily ashamed by how glad he is that Josh is not one of them.
Finally, finally, finally, Lanie comes to fetch him. Jim has already had some time with his daughter, and now it's his turn. As they walk down the hall, Lanie says, "She's on a ventilator, but don't freak out. It's because of the combined concussion and chest injury. She's incredibly strong and they'll be weaning her off it today."
"Listen, Castle? Just don't expect too much yet, okay?"
"Okay." Not okay.
It's been more than twelve hours since he last saw her, and he knows that she'll look worse than she did then, impossible as that is to digest. But he also knows that no matter what she'll be able to hear, and he challenges himself to be upbeat when he speaks to her. So what if she can't talk yet? He'll talk for both of them. She can tease him mercilessly about that when she's better. She'll be better. After checking in at the nurses' station, he gingerly enters her room. There are machines everywhere, and tubes everywhere. So many tubes, she has so damn many tubes. He takes some deep breaths and moves his eyes up to her face. One tube is in her mouth, and a vivid bruise stains one side of her forehead. If he weren't positive that she's alive, he'd be frantically getting help. She's unmoving and paler than the hospital sheets. He adds "get good, colorful sheets for KB's hospital bed" to his mental to-do list. Anything to divert himself from the horror in here.
He pulls a chair over next to the bed and lightly puts his right hand over her left. Keep it light. Keep it light. Keep it light. "Hey, Kate. Remember a couple of years ago when you said we had a song? Way before we got together. You said it was 'You Talk Too Much,' by Clarence Carter. I'm going to take advantage of talking too much at the moment, since you can't answer back. It's a golden opportunity. I was thinking of some other songs. How about 'Let Me Talk'? Remember that one? Earth Wind and Fire. You have no choice about letting me talk now, do you? Or, um, 'Talk Is Cheap'? Actually, it's free." He stops, leans down, and kisses her hand. How long can he keep this up? As long as he needs. No, as long as she needs. He clears his throat. "I can read your mind, you know. I can. Right about now you're running through an old Toby Keith song. I know it, I know it." He clears his throat again and starts singing softly. "A little less talk, if you please. A lot more loving is what I need. Let's get on down to the main attraction, with a little less talk and a lot more action." He can't do this, he can't. "I love you, Kate. When you wake up, I'll tell you again. I'll tell you every hour for the rest of our long, long, long, long lives together."
There's someone at the door. "Time's up, Mister Castle," the nurse mouths, tapping the watch on her wrist.
"Geez, they're kicking me out, Kate. But I'll be in the hall." He trails a fingertip across her knuckles. "I'll be right outside your door. Right outside." He has one foot in the corridor when he stops and whips his head around. He heard something. Not a noise from her, she can't make a sound with that tube in her throat, but something. He's sure of it. He stares at the bed until he figures it out. Her hand isn't in exactly the same place it had been. It has moved incrementally. He steps all the way out and looks to his right. Lanie is about 50 feet away, and though he probably shouldn't run in here, he does. "Lanie, Lanie," he grabs her elbow. "I think she might be waking up. Kate. Her hand. I think she moved her hand."
The words have barely left his lips when a cluster of white coats and blue scrubs fills Kate's room. He should tell Jim what happened, but where is he? He's about to text when he realizes what a bad idea that is. Let the professionals fill him in; he could have imagined it. Willed it, even. The last thing he should do is give Kate's father encouraging news if there isn't any.
He tells the nurses that he's going back to the waiting room, which is all he can do. Wait. He's not a naturally patient guy, but this situation calls for patience. Sitting on a slightly rump-sprung sofa, he instructs his mind to wander. It wanders to Senator William H. Bracken. What's the H stand for? He could look it up, but he'd rather invent something. Hellfire, for instance. Is that bastard even going to thank Kate for saving his life? What are some appropriate accidental deaths for him? Nothing too quick. He deserves a drawn-out, excruciating death. Maybe being eaten over time by subway rats. That would be good. Bracken somehow falls off a subway platform and nobody witnesses it. Oh, this could be good. He's in one of those long-abandoned "ghost" subway stations having a secret meeting with one of his abominable associates who leaves ahead of him. In the semi-darkness Bracken slips and falls. That's it. He can't get up off the track. There's no one to hear him shouting for help, no video surveillance of any kind. And the rats eat him, bit by bit.
It may not be his healthiest day dream ever, but it's satisfying.
He opens his eyes. "Lanie, hey."
"You were right. She can move a little. They'll be taking her off the ventilator slowly. Late this afternoon you can see her again. Want to grab some lunch?"
"Yeah, and let's ask Jim."
They go out to a cafe nearby. None of them has much appetite, but it uses up some time and they're all feeling a little better about Kate. He suddenly realizes that he'd muted his phone and hasn't talked with his daughter or his mother. After saying goodbye to his friends he moves to a little window seat, orders a cappuccino, and calls his mother, who answers immediately and dramatically. He calms her down, says he'll see her this evening, and then phones Alexis. She must be in class, so he leaves her a voicemail and waits for her to call back. Twenty minutes later, as he's sipping his second coffee, she does. He tells her a number of times that he had not been in danger last night, which is actually true.
The snow continues and the temperature has dropped, but he walks around the neighborhood for an hour. He welcomes the cold, feels as if it's sharpening all his senses. What he feels next is the buzz of his phone in his pocket. It's Lanie. He can see Kate. Thank God, thank God.
It's dark out now, and as he approaches her room he sees the low light that makes her look like some sort of angel, a very frail angel. But alive, on Earth.
"Kate. Kate." He kisses her gently on the cheek. "Kate."
"Hi, Castle." Her voice is raspy but she's smiling. Very slightly, but it's a smile. His heart melts.
"How are you?" Really? That's what he asks? He wants to smack himself.
"I blew up."
"I think I blew up. Is that why I'm here?"
A/N Thank you for all your kind support as I begin a new story, and very special thanks to Madelynn one for her invaluable help with medical questions. Any nuttiness there may be concerning Beckett's treatment is entirely my fault.