Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.

A/N I'm sorry that it took me such a long time to update. Life happens sometimes. You'll recognize a few lines from "Recoil," but almost all are mine.

She'd been confused for a while yesterday. "Temporary," the doctor had said. "The result of coming off the respirator." Shit, she'd been on a respirator? "Won't last long," Castle had said. The confusion, he'd meant. At first she'd thought he meant that she wasn't going to last long. She still feels that way, on and off, like she might not last long, might have used up all her luck.

She'd been confused when she'd come to almost 24 hours after she'd saved William Bracken's life. She'd knocked him to the pavement and thrown herself on top of him when his car blew up right next to them. She remembers doing it, the physical act, the adrenaline; she remembers shouting to Castle to go after the driver, but she doesn't remember the explosion or the aftermath. "Just as well," Castle keeps saying. "I remember, and that's more than enough for both of us."

Her head is clear now, even though it hurts, inside and out. It's not just the concussion, but a burn on her scalp. There's a much worse one on her thigh. She can't look. Not that she's not allowed to look–she would if she could, she could stomach it–but there's nothing to see. Her whole leg is swaddled. But she hurts almost everywhere, especially in her chest. Broken ribs. It's agony. Is it worse than a year and a half ago, when she got shot? Yes, because the pain is everywhere. But also no, it's not worse, because this time she's with Castle. Physical pain, she realizes, is far more endurable than emotional pain.

She may be clear-headed, but she's doped up, and keeps falling asleep. At least she's not having nightmares. "I made them give you the good stuff," Castle told her the second time she woke up. "Only good dreams on this stuff. The doctor promised. You think Espo and Ryan drive a hard bargain? I had to promise the guy tickets to opening day at Yankee Stadium in April. Right behind home plate, none of that nosebleed section. I think I'll get an extra pair for you and me. I'll paint pinstripes on your cast."

She's in here by herself a lot. Visitors can't be in the ICU all the time–even Castle, no matter what kind of bribery he tries. It's good that she's alone. She needs to figure out how to work through this pain, mask it, make herself seem okay when her dad visits. Or Castle. Even Lanie, but that's a lot harder.

"I'm a professional, Kate," she had said when she stopped by an hour or so ago. "Don't give me this 'Oh, my pain is only a two' crap. No one thinks you're weak if you ask for meds, and you're not going to turn into a junkie. Got it?"

"Yeah." Yeah, but no. Well, maybe yeah for a while. Just until she gets back on her feet. Ha. That's a good one. She won't be back on her left foot for a long time. She dozes off again. Here's the nurse. She asks him if Dr. Parish is around and he says he'll try to find her. A few minutes later her friend walks in.

"I need a haircut, Lanie."

"Say what?"

"A haircut. Part of my hair is burned. Could you cut those ends off? Please? The smell is horrible."

"Can't believe you're worrying about your hair, Kate."

"Not worrying, I just hate it. If the burnt part is gone I won't keep thinking about it, okay?"


"Sorry, I shouldn't be asking you. Aren't you supposed to be at work? With dead people?"

"Nope. Took a few days off. So I can be here to take care of your hair, you know? Give you a mani-pedi, too. And I'll charge less since I can do only your right foot."

"Oh, very nice. Doctor humor."

"Which is almost exactly like cop humor."


It takes a little doing, but Lanie manages to get a towel around her, cut off the burnt hair, and trim a lot of the undamaged part so that the newly short ends are less noticeable. Sitting up and pitching forward while Lanie wields her scissors, and staying still throughout, though, exhausts her.

"Your eyelids are drooping already, honey. I'm gonna scram before the nurse throws me out or you conk out, whichever comes first. See you later."

When she wakes again with a start, she has no idea how long she's been asleep. It's almost dark, and since it's early February the sun sets not long after five. It must be late afternoon. She turns her head away from the window and finds Castle perched on the chair on the other side of her bed. "Hey."

"Hey. How are you feeling?"


"I doubt it, but at least I have a surprise for you. Cleared it with the doctor."

"You talked them into springing me?"

"Sorry, not that good. Even I couldn't swing that. Still." He leans over, fetches something that must be in a bag at his feet, and beams as he holds up a small thermos. "Your favorite coffee. Decaf version, I grant you, but it's the best I could do. I made it myself, and in your honor I'm foregoing the caffeine, too."

What she wants to say is, "That's true love," but she can't. She will, later. Some day. Soon, some day. Instead she says, "Thank you. You're a prince."

"What? Not king?"

"You'll be king when you bring me the high-octane." She takes a sip from the cup that he has put gently in her hand. "Oh, that's good," she murmurs, and licks her dry lips. "Maybe you're a king after all." She closes her eyes, in part because she's reveling in the coffee, but largely she's thinking about Castle's expression, the one he has put on over the one he doesn't want her to see. The only one she's supposed to see is of good cheer and encouragement, but she also recognizes immediately what he thinks he has hidden. He's scared–not about her injuries, because he knows that she'll recover. What he's scared about is Bracken, a hell of a lot more scared than she is. If she were in his shoes, she might be, too, except that she no longer scares easily, if she ever did. She's going to have to talk to him about it, but not yet. When she's less dozy. He's trying to keep it light. Okay, she can do that. If it eases his fear even a little, holds it at bay, she'll do it. She slides her right hand across the sheet to him. "So, gonna paint pinstripes on my cast?"

"Damn right I am. Maybe I could get a little Yankee stocking cap to put over your toes. What do you think? With a pompom on top? It'll still be cold at the beginning of April."

"Hell of a fashion statement. I'm not sure that even the Yankees make something like that."

He shrugs his shoulders dismissively. "No matter. I know a knitter. Equal to any task."

"Of course you do." She grins at him and squeezes his hand. "What did you put in this coffee, Castle?"

"Me? Nothing. Everything as usual except the caffeine."

"No aphrodisiac, then?"

His eyes widen. "Noooo."

"Are you sure? Because if this weren't the ICU with glass everywhere and doctors and nurses a few feet away, I'd haul your ass into this bed with me."

"My ass, huh?"

"And your other parts."

She's rewarded with a chuckle. "All my parts would love to be in bed with you, but I've told them they have to wait."

She raises her eyebrows. "Does that include your mouth?"

"Beckett!" he gasps. "I'm shocked."

"Mind out of the gutter, Castle," she says, tickling the inside of his wrist with her fingernail. "What I meant was that I'd like you to kiss me."

"Are you sure?" he asks, looking and sounding terrified.

"Yes, I'm sure. My mouth is about the only thing that doesn't hurt."

He leans over and kisses her lightly and gingerly.

"A little more oomph, Castle. I'm not going to break." She sees hurt cross his eyes. "I know, I know. I'm already broken in a lot of places, but you of all people must believe in the power of kissing things to make them better. You can kiss those places later, but for now, come back here and kiss my lips."

When he leans over again she grabs the back of his head, pulls him towards her, kisses him a great deal less gently than he's kissing her, and slips him some tongue. She can feel his surprise, but she's just insistent enough to get him to respond.

"That's more like it," she says afterwards, when their foreheads are pressed together and they're both a little short of breath. "And by the way, better than the painkillers they're giving me. No horrible side effects either."

"No side effects?"

"I didn't say there were none, just no horrible ones. There was an extremely pleasant side effect and one irritating one."

It's his turn to raise his eyebrows, "The irritating one being?"

"Making me want you so badly and not being able to do anything about it."

"Now you know how I felt for four years, Beckett. There were long stretches when I took more cold showers than hot ones."

Seconds after he makes this confession, an orderly arrives with what constitutes dinner. "I'm sneaking food in here for you tomorrow," Castle says, looking disapprovingly at her plate. At which point a nurse arrives and tells him that visiting hours are over.

Except, as it turns out, they aren't. Much later, probably around eleven–she's only guessing because her father's watch, which was miraculously unscathed in the bombing, is with Castle for safekeeping–she sees someone in the doorway. Because he's backlit, his face is essentially invisible, but she'd know that body anywhere, under any circumstances.

"Detective," he says quietly, as he steps into her room.

"Senator," she replies, the ice in her voice matching that on the outside edge of her window.

"You saved my life."

She ignores the observation. "How did you get in here? Visiting hours ended ages ago. And you're not on my visitors' list."

"Oh, you'd be amazed at some of the perks available to someone in my position."

"Disgusted is more like it."

He sits in the chair that Castle had occupied earlier. "Sorry to hear one of my valued constituents speak that way."

"I may be one of your constituents, but I sure as hell didn't vote for you."

"A valued constituent, nonetheless. I'd have brought you flowers, but they're not allowed in the ICU."

Though she's tempted to say, "Put them on Melanie Rogers's grave," she lets his comment pass. "Why are you here?"

"You saved my life."

"Regrettably, it was my job to protect you. I still don't know why you're in my hospital room."

"Well, I suppose I'm in your debt, Detective."

She moves, as much as she can. "Nothing's changed between us."

"That may be, but it's a dangerous world out there. You never know when you might need a friend."

"I could say the same to you, Senator. But you're not my friend and never will be. My captain and my partners from the Twelfth brought me up to date on the case. They even played the video of your little generic tribute to the NYPD. I emphasize little. And I know as well as you exactly who was behind the bombing. I don't refer to your driver. He was just the trigger man."

Bracken stands and pitches his voice so low that she has to strain to hear it. "If you're so sure who was behind the bombing, who put you in that bed, I trust you'll be pursuing him, and not me."

She reaches for the call toggle, and presses the button for help. "Oh, I'll be pursuing him, all right. But I'll also be pursuing you."

"Is everything all right, Ms. Beckett?"

Bracken spins around at the sound of the nurse's voice.

"Yes, thanks. If you would just show the Senator out."

"Of course."

"Bracken," she whispers, loud enough to get his attention. "Calling for help is one of the perks of being an ICU patient. Immediate trash removal."

A/N Thank you for sticking with me. The next chapter will arrive far more quickly than this one did. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and many other holidays that occur at this time of year. May we all find peace.