Chapter 10: part 1
She woke up a few times throughout the night. Every single time Castle was there. She opened her eyes and got lost in the deep blue orbs that were his eyes. He would stroke her hair and whisper into her ear as the tension and the fear literally drained out of her. She never said anything other than a quiet thank you as her eyes slipped closed again. He waited until he was absolutely sure that she was in a deep and comfortable sleep before he settled down next to her again.
By morning they were both exhausted, but they had made it through the night and that was a start. He slipped out of her bed, carefully so as not to wake her, after the sun had risen. He pulled the curtains closed over the windows in hopes that she would get a few more hours of sleep and made sure her phone was within reach in case she woke up.
"Morning, Pumpkin. You're up early." He greeted as he entered the kitchen to find her sitting at the counter over a bowl of cereal. Alexis looked up and smiled before returning her attention back to the cereal and the book laying on the counter.
"Anything good?" He prods.
"What?" She says around her spoon, never looking up from occupations. It reminded him of a certain fiery headed eight year old who practically read everywhere but the shower. It was in this very house where she had a full on meltdown when Harry Potter #5 or #6, he couldn't remember which, had taken an unfortunate dip in the pool. He had driven an hour across town to replace it.
"You're book. You must be really enjoying it if you're cheating on your cereal with it?" He quipped.
"hmmm" was all she could manage. He was really becoming concerned with her mood lately.
"Hey pumpkin." He said as he poured his coffee and came to stand in front of her. When she didn't look up he tried again. "Alexis."
She looked up with a tiny flash of annoyance. He was taken aback. She was almost never genuinely annoyed with him, especially this early in the morning.
"Are you okay? You've been acting off a bit since we got here."
"I'm fine, dad." She said as she went back to her book, but he was too fast for her, he quickly grabbed the book from the counter and shut it around one of his fingers, careful to keep the page. He did not want to open that can of worms.
She huffed annoyance and he could instantly see the regret in her eyes. She was a sweet kid and acting out had always made her feel uncomfortable and guilty, hence why he rarely had to discipline her.
"It wasn't that interesting anyway." She scoffed under her breath as she slipped off the stool and hurried away up the stairs.
"Alexis, wait." But she had already disappeared up the stairs. He ran a hand down his face and leaned heavily against the counter as he weighed his options. He decided to give her some space to cool down and process her emotions before he tried again.
He downed the rest of his coffee and went to check on Kate. After seeing that she was still sound asleep he went upstairs to shower and get ready for the day. He turned the ringer all the way up on his phone to make sure he could hear it if Kate were to wake up and call before stepping under the scalding spray.
He had just turned off the water when he heard Alexis practically screaming his name from down stairs. He lunged into action. Pulling on the very first pair shorts he could find and racing down the stairs as he pulled a shirt over his head. His hair was still dripping and he was pretty sure he didn't match, he didn't even care.
He rounded the bottom of the stairs to see a very panicked Alexis standing outside Kate's room with her eyes glued past the door. His heart plummeted even further as all of the possibilities ran through his head.
He took the last few large strides to Alexis and took hold of her forearms so that her panic filled eyes met his. He could see a few tears making their way down her face, which only hurried him further.
"I'm here now." Was all he managed to get out as he let go and turned into Kate's room.
And there she was, the woman he was pretty sure was the love of his life, laying on the floor writhing in pain.
"Kate!" He rushed to her side and took her into his arms. He managed to hold her neck with one hand and get the other underneath her back, effectively cradling her beneath him. Her eyes were still slammed shut in pain, but her writhing stopped as she went limp in his arms.
"Kate, can you open your eyes for me?" She didn't move, just lay tense and silent in his arms. "Please, Kate." He practically whispered as he pressed a kiss into her hair.
He waited what seemed like an eternity before her eyes slowly opened. Her body was still tight in his arms, but her eyes met his for a moment before she shut them again a bit more gently this time. She was sweaty and her breathing labored.
"Kate, you've got to try and relax. You're going to make it worse." She made no move to even acknowledge that she had heard. "Alexis, call 911."
"No," She whimpered weakly. "Hospital. No. S'fine." She ground out with clenched teeth.
"Kate, you are not fine. You are recovering from a bullet and you just fell at least two feet. You need a hospital."
"Just give me a minute." She said a little bit more coherently.
"Dad?" Alexis called from the door, no doubt questioning what to do.
He felt Kate's body begin to relax in his arms. It was just a tiny change, but it was something. He knew that Kate hated hospitals. Her whole life had been shattered in one of those sterile white rooms.
"It's alright, Alexis. Go and get me the phone numbers from the fridge and a telephone please." He said in the calmest voice he could manage. He heard her retreating steps and looked back down at Kate. She was much more relaxed at this point, but he could tell that she was still very much in pain.
"6" she replied automatically.
"Okay that means, nine. Kate, we really need to go to the hospital."
"No, Castle." It was barely a whisper and tears began making their way down her face.
"Okay, Kate. Alright no hospitals." He sighed and pulled her tighter against him. "I'm going to lift you up to the bed now, okay."
She gave a slight nod as he twisted himself around her and picked her up bridal style as slowly and carefully as possible. He ignored the pain in his knees as he hoisted her up against his chest. He took a step and placed her gently down on the bed.
He sighed in relief as she sunk down into the covers instead of tensing back up.
"Don't move. I'll be right back."
She nodded and he moved to stand in the doorway by a visibly shaken Alexis.
"She's fine, pumpkin." He said before thinking better of himself, "She will be fine."
He crushed his daughter against him for a second before taking the paper and phone out of her hands.
It had been an hour and a half since he had cradled her on the floor. He had called the hospital and pulled quite a few strings to have a doctor drive out to the house. He wouldn't make her go to the hospital, but she had to see a doctor. There is no telling how much damage her little accident caused.
He sat by her bed until the doctor arrived and then he was presently kicked out so that she could be examined. She gave him quite the glare when she realized what was going on, but her face softened and she managed a soft smile as he shut the door.
Alexis had calmed down by now and was sitting on the porch reading. She didn't know what had happened, just that she heard a crash and found Kate in excruciating pain on the floor. She had been panicked, but seeing Kate safely resting in bed had calmed her fears. It wasn't so easy for Castle. He knew how thick Kate's mask was and just how much she hid from the world.
So here he sat on his couch, pretending to watch TV while watching her door like a hawk. The doctor had been fast, the hospital was only about ten minutes away and he knew the severity of the situation. He trusted the man and knew Kate was in the best hands.
Finally, the door opened and the doctor emerged, bag in hand. Dr. James was the best spinal injury specialist within a hundred mile radius. He was a little round man with a kind heart. He had white hair and a clean shaven face. He reminded Castle of Santa Clause without the beard.
Castle popped up off the couch and was by the doctor's side in seconds.
"How is she?" He prodded.
"Relax, son. She was extremely lucky this time. I don't see any signs of internal damage. I gave her some muscle relaxers and a pain pill. She is sleeping now and should be good as new in a few hours."
"Thank you so much for taking care of her."
"You don't have to thank me. I was just doing my job, you are the one doing all the heavy lifting. And for what it is worth, you have your work cut out for you. You've got a stubborn one there." He chuckled lightly along with the good doctor as he showed him out. He could see Kate standing her ground and insisting that his visit was unnecessary even when it was blatantly obvious that she was in a world of pain.
"Thank you again." Castle said as he waved and shut the door, breathing a deep sigh of relief.
It was almost twelve o'clock when she finally woke up. He had been writing in a chair he dragged over to the side of her bed. She woke up a few minutes before he noticed, which was a shock to her as he was normally extremely observant, and she took the chance to observe him at work.
His brow was furrowed as his fingers flew over the keys. He looked so focused and so happy all at the same time. His eyes were completely glued to the screen and every few seconds he would blink and slow before speeding back up with a renewed vigor. It was fascinating.
After a few minutes his rhythm faltered and then stopped altogether. He looked up and smiled as he met her eyes.
"Hey, Castle" She said softly and it took him back to an all too similar day in the hospital. He was glad that there was no earth shattering news to reveal this time. Although, today could have been so much worse.
"You really scared me Kate. How are you feeling?"
"A little loopy actually." She said with a shaky laugh. He shut the top to his laptop and came to sit at her hip, powerless to resist the magnetism that was Kate.
She smiled up at him and put one of her hands on his knee.
"Thank you, for being there."
And now was the moment he had been contemplating for the last three hours. To ask the question or to just let it go. Being a mystery novelist he had never been one to just let go."What happened this morning, Kate?"