It started at 2am. The nightmares.
He had stayed up with Alexis until after midnight to watch Star Wars: Episode 1. Every year they worked their way through the movies throughout the summer. They both knew every line by heart, but it would just seem wrong to watch anything else. It wasn't the only thing they watched together, but they did complete all seven movies every year.
The movie was as good as it always was, but something was different, off. Alexis was quiet and reserved. She stayed on her end of the couch and put the popcorn bowl in between them as if it were a wall. They normally cuddled up together and ate everything in sight, but tonight they were separated by a half-eaten bowl of popcorn. He was determined to get to the bottom of this and fix whatever was bothering his little girl. But not tonight.
After they had gone their separate ways, Rick just couldn't bring himself to sleep upstairs. Kate was the only one downstairs and he would never forgive himself if something happened and he was not there with her.
There was a fairly comfortable couch in his office that he had slept many a power nap on when he should have been writing. And plus, his office shared a wall with Kate's bedroom and he would sleep better knowing she was only a few feet away.
He took a pillow and blanket down stairs and made up a pallet on the couch. The couch really was comfortable and he was exhausted from the day. It was no time before he was in a deep sleep. It was only about two hours later before he was wide awake.
He wasn't sure what exactly woke him up, but he was immediately met with whimpers and struggling from the next room. His subconscious wrote it off as his sleep deprived brain hearing things, it wouldn't be the first time, but as soon as he heard his name he was wide awake.
"Castle. Castle. Castle!" It was Kate. Her cries were getting louder and more desperate. "No, No, Noooooo!"
He threw off the covers and ran into the next room. Kate was asleep, caught in her own dream. There was a sheen of sweat on her face and neck, she was struggling as if she couldn't catch her breath and something was tying her down. She was pitiful. Her cries continued and became incoherent as he approached the bed.
He sat down at her hip and pushed the hair out of her sweaty face. She calmed a bit at the touch, but then was thrown right back into the dream.
"Kate. Kate, can you hear me. I'm right here, Kate." He murmured into the darkness of her room. "Can you open your eyes for me? It's just a dream, Kate. I'm right here."
The whole time he spoke he ran his fingers through her hair and squeezed her hand, trying to slowly bring her out of the confines of her own mind.
Slowly she calmed. Her breaths evened out and she squeezed his hand back. Finally, after what seemed like forever her eyes opened and locked with his. There was an intensity in the dark green orbs that almost scared him, but in a split second it was gone and replaced with the broken and vulnerable Kate he was getting used to.
Tears made their way down her face and his heart broke. He scooped her up against him and held her as tight as he could without hurting her still tender body. She weakly lay her head on his shoulder and curled into him as she cried.
"Cemetary… Shot... You... Roy... Hurts... Can't move. Can't Breathe." She couldn't make full sentences, but he understood. She was having flash backs. She was remembering Roy's shooting and hers, her initially waking up in the hospital and her diagnosis. In her dreams everything was worse. She was alone and she could never get to the part where she recovered, she hadn't even reached that part fully in real life.
She told him about the dreams one day in the garden. It was after their talk, or his break down rather, and they kept telling him she had a rough night. There was hardly ever a day when they didn't make that comment. He had questioned her about it and questioned her about it, that day, before she finally broke down and confessed her worst nightmares to him literally.
She told him that she sometimes watched her mom die and then Roy and then herself on that hospital table. Sometimes she had to watch Lanie and the boys and even Castle die in her place. They were awful and she only ever spoke about them that one day. This was the first time he had been with her at night and he had no idea what to expect.
She just cried into him. Awkwardly clinging to him with the almost no strength she had in her arms. He compensated and held her against him as tightly as he dared. Eventually she went slack in his arms. Completely spent from the struggle and the crying.
He had no idea what to do. He expected her to want to talk, or rather want to avoid talking, and him have to pry it out of her. He expected her to not want to go back to sleep and for her to fight him when he suggested it. He at least thought that she would stay awake long enough to get situated again. But, she was full of surprises and he was glad that she was at least sleeping.
He stayed for half an hour to make sure she really was asleep. After keeping watch he just couldn't keep his eyes open any longer and he made his way over to his makeshift bed again. He crawled in and was asleep before his head ever hit the pillow.
It was only two hours before he was awake again. He could hear crying, but it was much different from the last time. She didn't sound like she was in trouble or in crisis, no this was pure sadness.
He tiptoed out of his room and pushed her cracked door open. He found her sobbing quietly into the darkness. He could tell she was trying to hide it, probably just not wanting to wake anybody up.
She looked so small in all wrapped up in the covers and trembling as she was. He stepped into the room and turned on her bedside lamp. She looked even more distraught at his being there, and shook her head as if to say 'I'm fine, you can go away'.
"Kate." He whispered softly.
"Nothing, Castle. Nightmare. Nothing new." She tried to crack a smile, but it never went much farther than a thought.
"Not nothing, Kate. You're hurting. How many times do I have to tell you that you are not alone? You are never alone. You are in a house full of people that care about you, okay. No more doing this alone." he went around the bed and climbed onto it. He lay beside her on his side propped up on one elbow so that he could see her.
"It was just a dream, okay. You're here and I'm here and the boys are safe back in New York. Just a dream. You're safe now, I'm here."
She closed her eyes and let his gentle words wash away the panic and sadness. She hated that just a dream could reduce her to a puddle of tears. She was better than this, stronger than this. She had gotten over the nightmare phase at the age of four and there was no reason to go back now. She was fine, she needed to suck it up and deal.
He stopped speaking when she had calmed and he simply laid there with her as she stared up at the ceiling.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."
"Don't apologize. This is not your fault, and I am glad that I woke up. I don't want you to have to lay here and cry yourself back to sleep alone when these things happen. Your phone is right there, Kate, why didn't you just call me?"
He knew the answer, she didn't want to be a burden or a pain, but what she didn't realize was that her suffering and tears were ripping him apart. She could never be a burden to him and being able to comfort her was never a pain. He had told her a million times, but maybe words were not enough. Maybe she needed a little more action to put with the words.
Sure he had done a lot for her, but everything he had done so far had been physical. He had used his money to make her life a little bit simpler, but that didn't really count. He needed to do more than that.
He needed to show her just how extraordinary she was again. Even after the bullet wound and even with the chair. He wanted to show her that she was so much more and that he was the one who didn't deserve her. He wanted her to see herself the way he saw her, and maybe then she would know that she wasn't a burden, that she could never possibly be a pain to him. She was everything to him.
"It's alright, Kate. Get some sleep and we will figure it out in the morning." Her eyes slipped closed and her body relaxed. He thought she had gone back to sleep, but when he tried to sneak out, he was stopped by a weak hand on his chest.
"Don't go." He barely heard it and if he hadn't seen her lips moving he would have seriously questioned it, but he didn't. He just laid back down beside her and took her hand to let her know he wasn't going anywhere.If she needed him there beside her than that's where he would be.