By the time they arrived back in New York, the sky was dark and 'The City that Never Sleeps' was definitely not sleeping. Everything was beautifully alive and dazzlingly bright. The streets were filled with people and there were taxis zipping through traffic. It was chaotic, but it was home.
"I almost forgot how much I love it here." Kate murmured to herself as she rolled her window down just slightly to pick up more of the noise.
"mmmh." Alexis had just nodded off after an afternoon full of Russian conversation and road trip snacks, but Castle couldn't help but agree with his partner's observation.
If they were both honest with themselves, while they knew that coming back was necessary and inevitable, they were scared to come home. Everything was different now, not just her health situation, but their heart situations as well. They had been in an airtight bubble in the Hamptons. A bubble that allowed them to heal, learn, and grow into their new life and now they were just being thrust back into the fast pace of real life.
They couldn't help but wonder what this new part of their lives would entail.
Kate was strong now, no one was shocked that she was progressing faster than anyone thought she would. She could do a lot of things on her own now, she got ready by herself, she did her hair and makeup regularly, she stayed awake longer and longer after her sessions, and she could sit up and lay herself down whenever she needed too. Therapy sessions had decreased to twice a week and they were now focusing on more difficult tasks that she would need to do to take care of herself. At the moment they were working on navigating a wheelchair for longer periods of time and maybe the possibility of standing for a few seconds at a time to be able to switch from the wheelchair to other surfaces.
Her doctors were equally impressed. Her dietary restrictions were slowly being lifted and her body was settling into its new normal. She was free from weekly appointments and her medications were all being lowered or taken away altogether.
He was so proud of all of the hard work she had put into her recovery and was glad to be the one that was able to help her through it. The sailing definitely hadn't been smooth throughout her recovery, but he hoped that the worst days were behind them.
Therapy was always hard on her physically, but there were a few times when she was emotionally wiped out too. Most of the time that just meant that she was a little more irritable and required either some alone time to sort herself out or some quality 'Castle Clan time' as she had jokingly dubbed it. And then there were the days when it was just way too much. Today was one of those days.
Dr. Keller was happy with her initial progress and decided to move up to some more advanced exercises. Castle had agreed that it was a great idea, until it was clear that it wasn't.
Halfway through it was like Kate had just given up. Tears made their way down her face and she just stopped responding to the world around her. Dr. Keller had toned it down a bit and Castle had stepped up to hold her hand and encourage her as best he could, but ultimately it was decided that after a quick electrotherapy session they would be done for the day.
Kate had just closed her eyes and cried through it. After it was over, Castle carried her to her room and tucked her in with a promise to be back after showing Dr. Keller out.
The older man had advised him not to be discouraged, sometimes a patient just became overwhelmed or their pain can get to be too much. He advised a lot of support and to take the next day off to help some of the soreness wear off before they tried again.
When he returned to her room she was already asleep. He sat with her for a few minutes, before leaving her a note and her phone so that she could call him when she woke up. He took his laptop and went outside to get some fresh air.
After an hour it was clear that his attempt to get some work done was hopeless. He hadn't even begun to write and all he could think about was Kate. He was haunted by the look of defeat and pain in her eyes from the morning. He kept seeing her laying there in pain and he had no way to help her. She had been doing so well and then it was like she had just completely given up.
He was still lost in his thoughts when he heard Alexis cry out for him from the porch.
"Dad! Dad!" He was up and running faster than he honestly thought possible, a thousand worst case scenarios in his head. She sounded as distressed as he had ever heard her. As soon as he got close enough he could see she was crying and confused. "It's Kate. I don't know what happened. I came in to ask for some help with a few words and found her. She won't talk to me…I don't know what to do."
He swept her up in a quick hug and told her everything would be fine, before he raced off to Kate's room. He couldn't help but remember what he had found the last time Alexis had called him to Kate's room earlier in the summer. He prayed that she hadn't done anything drastic.
The tiny shred of relief he felt when he saw her still on the bed was short-lived when he fully took her in. She was in the middle of the bed, thankfully, but all of the covers had been thrown off of her and no pillows remained in the bed with her. She was sobbing and thrashing around as if she was in a nightmare. He actually couldn't tell whether she was awake or asleep.
She was definitely in pain, though, and that he had to stop. He quickly decided that he first and foremost needed to stop her from causing herself any more pain. He went over to her and sat down beside her on the bed. He tried running his hand through her hair and whispering kind words to her, but her behavior continued. He tried to pin her down, but she just became more hysterical. So finally, he simply picked her up and held her tightly against him.
"It's alright, Kate. I'm here, I've got you. They can't hurt you now." He had decided that it must be a nightmare, so he just kept reassuring her like he always did. He had quite the experience with how to calm her after a nightmare and he could usually get her calmed down pretty quickly. Today was different. Nothing he said made any difference she just continued crying and struggling, though now her struggle was less physical and more internalized, he could still see it written all over her face.
He then realized she was not asleep. She wasn't asleep, she was having a full on panic attack. He had never seen her like this. She was completely out of it and it scared him senseless to see her like this, but it was up to him to protect her, even if it was from her own mind.
He sat down on the bed with her in his arms and brought her around to face him. Her eyes were a little glassed over and there were tears running down her face. She was looking down and up and everywhere, but at him.
"Kate. Kate, can you look at me?" He asked in the calmest voice he could manage. "Kate, I need you to look at me, can you do that?" Her eyes eventually met his, though it looked like it took a lot of effort and focus.
"Yeah. Hey, beautiful. No, no. Keep looking at me." Her eyes again searched his face and focused a little bit more when she found his eyes. "There you go. Kate, can you tell me where you are?" She shook her head.
"Hurts." She grunted out.
"I know it hurts, sweetheart. Just focus on me. Where are you? Do you remember?" She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow for a minute.
"Yeah. We're in the Hamptons. I need you to breath for me can you do that. Just keep breathing." He slowly brought her hand to rest on his chest. "Breathe with me, Kate. In and out. In and out."
She focused on his breathing and tried her best to get them to match. She fisted her other hand in his shirt to remind herself that he was still there, opening and closing her fist with every breath.
"There you go, good girl. Keep breathing. We are completely safe. Everything is going to be alright, but I need you to relax and calm down." Her breathing finally regulated and her eyes completely cleared. She looked around and he breathed a sigh of relief before she hurled herself at him the best she could.
She buried her head into his chest and cried with the few tears she had left.
"Shhh. It's okay, you're okay." He continued to whisper to her until she quieted. He almost thought she was asleep until she whispered, "I'm so sorry, Castle."
"Hey, no, don't you dare apologize." He squeezed her against him a little tighter for good measure. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Kate."
They sat pressed together for a while. He waited until she was completely calmed down before he spoke again.
"What happened, Kate?"
She sighed audibly. She didn't really know, honestly. She was asleep one minute and the next he was talking her down from her emotional edge. She was so confused and tired and frustrated. How could she tell him something she didn't even understand herself?
"I don't know. I really don't know. I was asleep one second and then you were here and I couldn't breath and I didn't know where I was or what to do, I just…"
"Hey, hey. Calm down, it's okay. We'll figure it out." He said as he ran a comforting hand through her hair. "Let's start at the beginning. What about this morning?" He didn't want her to panic again, but he needed to know what was going on in her head. He needed to know how to help her and how to never have to see her go through that again.
"It's just hopeless, Castle. I don't know why I keep doing all this therapy. It's just a wasted effort. I'm not improving. I can't even sit up on my own. How ridiculous is that? I can't sit up or brush my hair or stay awake long enough to watch a movie. I am so useless.
"I just don't understand why I have to go through all of this pain for nothing. I couldn't do a single thing that he asked me to do today. Not a one. I might as well stop trying and resign myself to the fact that I will never get a shred of my life back. I'll never have any independence and I'll just have to lay here and wait for you to come get me. You can't do this for the rest of your life, Castle.
"What kind of life is that? The one where you have to cater to my every need because I am too helpless to do it myself. God, Castle…" He didn't let it go any further. He silenced her with a slightly demanding kiss. She was stunned for a few seconds, but managed to respond before he broke the kiss and pulled her back to him.
"Kate, you have got to stop thinking these things. You have got to believe me when I say that you are it for me. Any version of you is the version I want to be with. I cannot imagine my life without you in it. I could care less if you couldn't feed yourself for the rest of your life, I will be here to do it.
"I love you. When are you going to realize that I don't just want Detective Beckett? I want Kate and Katie and Beckett and every single version of you there is. I have loved every second of taking care of you and I would be honored to take care of you for the rest of my life, in whatever capacity you need.
"You are not a burden and you most definitely aren't hopeless. These things don't happen overnight, Kate. You are doing a great job and you are improving a little bit with each passing day. You're eating a little bit more, you are staying awake a little bit more, and you are able to complete more tasks in therapy. I know it's hard, sweetheart, but I will be here with you the entire time. I'm here for you to lean on. I'm here to be a shoulder to cry on and the arms to hold you up when all you feel like doing is falling down.
"I don't want you to keep thinking these negative thoughts about yourself, okay? You are the strongest, most extraordinary woman I know. Not in spite of what happens to you, but because of it. You used your mother's death to become something great and as horrible as it was you came out stronger and the same thing will happen now. You're getting stronger and I do not want to spend one second of my life with anyone other than you."
She was crying again by the end of his speech, but this time it was because of how grateful to the man that would always be beside her. She would never be able to repay him, but maybe she could start by trying believe him.
That day had been a hard one, and he knew it wouldn't be the last. Alexis had been affected by what she had seen as well, but it hadn't put a damper on their relationship. It was something they had talked about at the dinner table and had vowed to be open about. It hadn't happened on that scale again, though they had seen some pretty nasty night terrors.
She dreamed about Montgomery and his sacrifice, about what would have happened if Castle had been shot or if she had died on the grass, she woke up screaming that he had given up on her and left her alone. All of these dreams worried him.
She hadn't really had time to mourn her Captain. The man who had made her into the detective she was today and had been a sort of pseudo-father of sorts when she didn't have her own father to lean on. She had been shot and now, instead of giving herself time to mourn and work through her emotions, she was learning how to live again. It wasn't fair.She carried a burden that was much too large for her own shoulders and he was there to help her carry it, but he still wondered. He was always confident that he would be able to put all of her pieces back together, that he would be able to give her the life she wanted and deserved, but deep down inside he often wondered if he would be enough.