Convalescence

Please Wake Up

Fifty-two hours, twenty-three seconds. No, he hasn’t been counting. He has an app on his phone that has never served a purpose until now.

The silence sits around them, heavy. She’s out of surgery, he thinks. As long as she wakes up, she’s going to be okay. Even with the conditional, this thought makes him hope.

Jim, across from him, looks even more anguished than he, pale with tight lips, drawn skin. He wants to say something, anything to break the silence, but he can find nothing. He is a writer with no more words in his arsenal.

The time for sharing stories from Kate’s childhood is long since gone. The time for talking about much of anything is gone.

Kate’s still in ICU. No one has been allowed inside to sit with her yet. They say her immune system is too fragile to handle visitors right now, and besides, she hasn’t woken up yet. That’s what worries them. She hasn’t woken up.

At first, the doctors told them not to be too concerned. They had just reduced the medication, and it would take one to two hours to wear off completely. Castle remembers the happiness he felt at that news, the happiness he saw mirrored in Jim. They had chatted and talked inconsequentially then, spirits lifted by the thought that soon they could again see Kate’s beautiful brown eyes and maybe even witness a smile.

That was four hours ago.

Briefly Castle considers calling Alexis from the observation room. Her voice would cheer him up again, remind him that all is not yet lost. But to do that would be to tell her that Kate might not live, and he can’t bear the thought. He won’t burden her with it, no matter how much pain he’s in. Even if he’s received five desperate texts from her over the course of the day, plying him for news. He won’t share until…until it’s definitive either way.

His phone’s screen lights up, showing Caller ID. It’s Alexis. He gives Jim a questioning look, and when the older man nods Castle answers it. “Hey, Alexis.” His tone is as upbeat as he can make it, but it’s still decidedly disconsolate.

“Dad, you didn’t respond to any of my texts! Is something wrong?” Her voice is nearly hysterical.

“Sorry, Alexis, I should’ve replied. They’ve taken her off the drugs, so Kate should be coming around any minute now.” He doesn’t mention how long ago they took her off.

“I was so scared,” Alexis says. There’s a pause, and he can just imagine her biting her lower lip on the other end. “Will you come home tonight?”

Hearing that breaks his already fragile heart. “Yeah, I will. Of course I will, if you need me.”

She’s breathless on the other end. “Thank you.”

“Rick. Rick!” Jim is motioning to him frantically.

“Alexis, I have to go. I’ll see you later!” He ends the call, peering through the glass to see what Jim is pointing to.

Her eyes. Her eyes are open.

Castle just might weep for joy as he sees her blink, once, twice. He pulls the door open to the hallway with rampant enthusiasm and hails the first person in scrubs he can find. He and Jim watch from behind the glass as the short Asian doctor pulls on a surgical mask and enters the room. There’s no sound coming through the mirror, but they both know enough of what’s going on by watching doctor and patient interact.

A tear makes its way down his face, leaving a salty trail behind it. He doesn’t wipe it away. She’s back. Kate’s back.


Once she opens her eyes, she’s aware of all the sensations. The bright white lights of the room. The whirring and beeping of the machines. The itch in her arms and hands where IVs crawl under her skin. The stickiness of the electrodes attached to her forehead and under her garments. And a dull ache all over her chest and midsection, centering on the place the bullet struck her.

Even this amount of thought and sensation has made her unbelievably tired. So when the nurse enters the room and begins to ask her questions, every word she says is a blur. The only part Kate catches is that it’s been two days.

Two days. Castle. And her father. Esposito, Ryan, Lanie. She wants to see them; she wants to see them all. But she’s just so tired…

“Miss Beckett, there is a visitor who would love to see you, if you feel up to it.” Kate is momentarily distracted. She has seen Castle through the window, and his eyes are positively glowing with happiness.

“Castle?” she asks. Her voice is gone, raspy at best. Her throat is dry, parched, and just then her head begins to throb as well. The only parts of her that remain relatively painless are her feet.

“No, I’m sorry. It’s your father. Only immediate family members are allowed in this section of the ICU. Should I let him in?” The nurse appears truly contrite.

“Yes, please.” The nurse bustles off to prepare her father, but Kate has eyes only for Castle. He smiles, a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds. He places a hand against the glass, the closest he can get to touching her. It quickly reshapes itself into the classic Vulcan Salute. The corners of her mouth curve upwards ever so slightly. Castle.

Then she remembers. She remembers the shooting. She remembers the profession of his love that followed. And all of a sudden, everything that seemed so natural, so easy, so simple, so right a second ago is complicated beyond belief. Her brow creases and his grin falters at the sight of it.

“Katie!” Her father’s evident relief washes over her, distracting her from the man in the window. As he sits on the chair beside her, he too is wearing a paper mask, but pure love blazes in his eyes.

“Dad,” she says. A true smile this time. She discovers how much it hurts and quickly lets it go.

“You had us worried for a while there.” He clasps her hand in his large calloused ones, disregarding the tape covering them to hold the needle in place. She frowns slightly. She doesn’t want them to worry.

“It takes more than a bullet to stop me, Dad,” she says sleepily. He notices.

“You should go back to sleep,” he says. “I’ll be sitting right here when you wake up.”

Her eyes are already closing, but she makes one last effort to speak. “Promise?”

“Promise.”


She’s asleep again. Is it normal for patients to sleep that much? She’s been in a coma for two days, and yet she still can’t manage to stay conscious for more than a few minutes.

Castle stops himself. He’s picking at something that turned out better than he had hoped for. Not only has she awoken from the coma, but she saw him. She knew he was there. And she smiled, just a little bit.

Castle is ecstatic. She has not rejected him for his panicked admission of love. They are the same as they ever were, if not better, in that regard. She’s accepted it. She’s his. She’s his.

He types out a quick text to Alexis, knowing she’ll pass the good news along to Martha. Then he calls Esposito. It’s picked up halfway through the first ring.

“Esposito.”

“Hey, it’s me,” Castle says.

“Castle. What’s the news on Beckett?”

“She’s woken up!” Castle rejoices.

“Yo, Ryan!” Esposito hollers to someone nearby. “Beckett’s awake!”

There’s a muffled, “That’s great!” from the other end of the line.

“Have you got anything on the sniper?” Castle asks.

“Not yet, no,” he answers. “But we’re still working on it. It’s been a hectic couple of days, with the new Captain coming in and everything.” Castle had forgotten about that in the midst of his misery.

“Beckett’s case should be most important,” Castle says. He’s trying to relay the overhanging tension he feels over the phone, but he fears he’s not getting the point across. He needs—she needs—they all need—that sniper found, brought to justice, put away for good.

“Dude, you think I don’t know that? We’re running down every lead we get, no matter how small. But nothin’s turned up yet.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Castle apologizes.

“Nah, it’s cool, bro,” Esposito replies. “I get it. We’re all worried about her.”

“On that thought,” Castle says hurriedly. He’s anxious to get home and see Alexis, but he has to get this done first. “Is there any way you can get a protective detail over here? I can’t help but feel like she’s a sitting duck in here, and if the sniper failed once, he might try again.”

Esposito swears softly. “I never even thought of that; we’ve been so focused on finding the shooter. I’ll talk to Captain Gates about it right away.”

“Thanks,” Castle says. “Tell Lanie about Beckett too.”

“I will.” He hangs up.

Castle’s euphoria lasts him the entire drive home and even into the loft. Martha envelops him in a big hug upon arrival, and Alexis jumps down the stairs with her phone pressed to her ear. “Ash, my dad just got home. I’ll talk to you later!” She discards the phone on the table and leaps into Castle’s open arms. “Dad!” It’s a full minute before she releases him. “Detective Beckett woke up?”

“Yeah.” He grins again; he can’t help himself. “Yeah, she did. She’s going to be all right!” She squeezes him tight again. “So, fill me in: what have you been doing the last couple days?” A twinge of guilt touches him; he’s barely seen his daughter since he sent her home from the hospital.

Her smile fades as they sit down on the couch together. “Well, I’ve been trying to focus on school, like you said. I only had my English and math finals today, but I was really distracted the whole time. I think I did okay. I mean, I calculated that I needed 33% on the English final and 40% on the Calculus final to end up with A’s, so…”

Castle smiles. That sounds like his daughter. “I’m sure you did wonderfully.”

“I’ve also been talking to Ashley a lot. He’s a really good listener over the phone, Dad…I’m glad you didn’t scare him off waving that antique gun around.”

He kisses her forehead. “I’m glad too. But you know what I’m thinking now?”

“What?”

“Celebratory ice cream.”

Alexis grins, racing him to the freezer to claim the last few scoopfuls of chocolate in the container. They both end up with a hand on it, but Castle is guarding the silverware drawer. For a moment it’s a stalemate, and then she tugs and pulls it from his grasp. He negotiates two bites for access to the spoons.

He treasures times like these with his daughter, well aware that in a years’ time moments like these will be scarce and hard to come by.

When they are both so full they cannot eat another bite, Alexis gives him another hug and bids him goodnight. Castle retires to his room as well, but as he lies on his bed all his fears come back to him. He feels guilty for leaving her in the hospital even though she won’t be alone there. He’ll return first thing tomorrow morning, wave at her through the observation room window. But it’s poor substitute for what he really wants to do. He wants to be in that room. He wants to be the one holding her.


The second time she wakes, her father is still there. He smiles down at her, happiness spread across his whole face. “Hey, Katie. How do you feel?”

“I’m okay, Dad,” she replies. But she’s not. She’s exhausted and in pain. There’s a hardness in her eyes that wasn’t there before, a tension in her every feature.

He smoothes back her hair. “You were very lucky. I’m so glad you’re safe.” Lucky. She doesn’t feel lucky. She feels weak, and she hates that he’s seeing her like this. “Tomorrow they’re going to move you to a different section of ICU where you can have visitors. They’re all excited to see you.” He smiles. “Especially Rick.”

“Good,” she says in a hollow voice. No, this is all wrong. She doesn’t want any of them to see her like this. She can’t pull off Detective Beckett in this hospital bed. She can’t pull off Detective Beckett while lying immobile on her back, fighting every moment to stay awake.

“There’s someone who wants to see you now, though,” her father says, mistaking the pain in her eyes for bodily pain.

“I thought no one but family is allowed in?” she murmurs.

“He’s different,” Jim says. He’s confident that seeing this person will be a welcome surprise for her, will cheer her up. A cold fear steals through her muscles. She thinks it’s Castle. She thinks he’s used his best-selling-author persona to get himself in.

She doesn’t want to see him. She’s not ready. She doesn’t know how she’ll react. She doesn’t know where she wants them to go from here. In addition, she doesn’t want to see the concern and pity in his eyes. She doesn’t want anyone’s pity. She doesn’t need it.

Jim stands to leave, but she doesn’t want him to go. There are so many things she doesn’t want right now, they could fill a book.

Josh enters, not Castle. And it’s a huge relief. She knows exactly where she and Josh stand. Their relationship is uncomplicated, ordinary. “Hey, you,” he greets her.

“Hey, you,” she says, attempting another smile.

“I told you I’d show you around my work one day, but I’m guessing you didn’t think it’d be such an in-depth tour.” He’s teasing her, and it’s so normal she can almost forget where she is.

“It’s almost as bad as a real-life demonstration of lock up,” she replies easily.

“Don’t worry; I’m not planning on getting arrested any time soon.” There’s a comfortable lull in the conversation before he says, “So, how’re we treating you?”

“Pretty good. I’d kill for for something to drink though.”

“I’ll talk to the nurse about getting you a little water. You can’t overdo it, though. And no food until tomorrow.”

“Not even jello? It’s not food.”

He grins. “Not even jello.” He slips his hand under the blankets to find hers.

She gives it a weak squeeze. “I’m tired.”

“And I have to go back on shift. I’ll come visit you later, okay?”

“M’kay.” She slipping away again, and the heavy pain meds they’ve put her on aren’t helping anything. She hopes next time she’ll be able to stay awake longer, have more energy in her limbs.

“Miss Beckett?” It feels to Kate like no time has passed, but the nurse has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. “We’re going to move you now, to a different section of ICU.” It must be the next day, though her sense of time is totally skewed. Josh must have come and gone in the night while she was sleeping. Part of her wishes he would have woken her up. Part of her is just glad for the rest.

“Okay,” she mumbles. “What do I have to do?”

The nurse smiles. “You don’t have to do anything, just lie still.” Kate hates lying still, and doing nothing even more. The nurse tilts Kate’s head forward slightly, placing over her nose and mouth a mask to keep the germs out. Her immune system must be more compromised than she’d realized.

After removing all the electrodes from her forehead and tubes from her left arm, the nurse calls in another two men in scrubs to roll the bed down the hallway while she makes sure the IV bags don’t jostle too much. Kate’s exhausted again by the time they arrive and she hasn’t even moved. The sight of two armed police officers standing outside her door is only mildly surprising.

It’s who’s inside that is. Castle.


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