Why does her life have to be so damn complicated? She tries to arrange her expression into a small smile when she sees him, but really she’s dying inside. How ironic.
“Hey, Beckett.” Castle just looks at her, this silly puppy grin on his face. The nurse and her two companions rearrange the bed before Castle can really look at her, study her. His scrutiny makes her self-conscious, and all of a sudden she feels weak in front of his piercing gaze. She retracts from him a bit, the slightest hint of hostility in her bearing.
But she forces a smile. “Hey, Castle.” He doesn’t see the clenching of her hands under the blankets or the whirlpool of confusion swirling through her brain. His presence is like an electric shock, pushing back her weariness for a few minutes of complete clarity. She’d almost prefer the muddled thinking as opposed to dealing with this.
“How’re you doing?”
“I’ve been better.” She adopts a light-hearted tone that she hopes will mask her true pain.
He smiles. Even lying in a hospital bed, her wit is intact. “Yes, I can see that. This is a new look for you. But as well as you pull it off, I think I’d like something a little less...serious.” He gestures down at her to indicate what he means. Then his countenance changes, darkens. “Listen, Kate...do you remember the shooting?”
Her eyes flick up to meet his. “No.”
She watches Castle recoil, like her words are a slap in the face. A melancholy feeling seeps into her heart and she adds, “No, I don’t. Some things are better not rememebered. But Castle?”
“Will you tell me what happened? I don’t want to hear it from anybody but you.” The light in his eyes has returned, and she hopes beyond hope that he won’t say he loves her again. She can’t deal with that right now, on top of everything else.
“You were standing at the podium, delivering a speech at Montgomery’s funeral. Beautiful speech by the way, I couldn’t have written it better myself.” The corners of her mouth curve upwards again. “In the middle of it, I was looking out towards the gravestones and I saw this flash, the kind that glints off the barrel of a rifle. I tried to knock you down, but...” He hangs his head.
“‘S not your fault, Castle.” He meets her eyes, his own filled with guilt and remorse.
“I was supposed to have your back. And I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
“It was supposed to be over,” Kate says, letting bitterness into her voice for the first time. “There was no way you could have seen that coming.”
“Thanks.” He looks marginally happier. He hasn’t said anything about his admission of love. Maybe he won’t. Maybe they can just let it slide. But is that what she really wants? They sit in silence for a few minutes, simply enjoying each other’s company. She’s considering asking him to leave—under the pretense of getting some rest, she really just wants him out of here so she doesn’t have to face all the complicated feelings and decisions he poses—but before she can say anything, he asks, “Josh been by yet?”
“Uh, yeah,” she says, nonplussed. “Twice. Why?”
Castle shakes his head. “No reason.”
He scoots closer to her and places his hand on her forearm, a warm pressure that makes her want to flinch away and hug him at the same time. “Kate,” he says softly. Her heart thuds in her chest. She expects him to say it, finally, just when she had started to believe he wouldn’t. She doesn’t know how much of a coward he really is. She underestimates his fear of rejection. “Are you okay?” Somehow she knows he’s not referring to the bullet wound.
She looks down to hide both her relief and her disappointment. Her heart is crying inside, but her mind is relieved. The tumultuous emotions have drained her of her vitality again, and she says truthfully, “I’m tired, Castle.”
That’s not what he really means and they both know it. But she doesn’t want to think about the shooting, or Montgomery, and especially not dying.
He nods, the slightest bit crushed. He had looked so vibrant, so happy coming in here, and now… Kate just wants him to go, before either of them gets hurt any further.
“Of course. I’ll…I’ll come visit you later,” he says. Kate doesn’t have the heart to tell him no. With one last backward glance, Castle leaves the room and she sighs, feeling a release of tension within her body as he steps out of sight.
She loves him. She knows that, has known, for a while now. But she’s with Josh. Being with Castle might be a wild ride, a dream come true for a little while, but she can’t be sure that he’ll stick around. Not with his history. Not with the fact that it took her dying, shot in a cemetery, for him to tell her he loves her. Does it even count when emotions were running so high? Maybe he did it as a spur of the moment thing, knowing that he might not get another chance. That would explain why he doesn’t mention it now.
Josh is the safe choice. He’s the comfortable, uncomplicated choice. He loves her, and it’s as simple as that. Her life needs simple right now, so she can focus on getting better, getting back to the precinct, getting her job and her life back. That is her first priority. Though she won’t admit it, even to herself, Kate is ignoring the most important question: does she love him?
Castle has to clench his fists to keep from punching the blank wall outside Kate’s room. She doesn’t remember. She doesn’t remember any of it. Unless she does, and she’s determined not to mention it. Which can only mean she doesn’t feel the same.
“Hey, Rick.” He’s been ambushed by Beckett’s father. “How was your visit with Katie?”
“It was…” Castle searches for the words. “…special. I thought I might never see her again, and when I walked in that room…” He’s not playacting this time as he smiles. He remembers drinking in her every movement, her every expression, everything that made her Kate Beckett, kind-hearted cop and badass extraordinaire when he caught his first glimpse of her. If only she was his kind-hearted cop.
Jim nods, understanding completely. “It’s a miracle. She’s a miracle. Sometimes, what with her job and everything, I think her mother’s spirit must be watching over her all these years, keeping her safe. I’ve long since made my peace with her career choice, but it’s still comforting to think Johanna’s had a hand in her recovery.”
Castle smiles again. “Yeah, I think she must have.” He pretends to pull out his phone and check the time. “I should be going; I’m supposed to meet Ryan and Esposito at the precinct in fifteen minutes.” He walks past Jim.
“Rick.” He stops, turns back. “I know Katie’s with Josh right now, but stick around. She needs you more than she lets on, and I think you’d be good for her.”
It’s as if Jim has read his mind, seen what Castle has been considering, and stamped it out with his boot. Castle stares at him for a second, then nods and continues on his way. He’s not really going to the precinct. He’s going home, back to the loft, to get a pen and paper and try to puzzle Kate out.
Throughout the day, Kate is never alone. Soon after Castle leaves, her father drops in and sits by her bed. They alternate between chatting about inconsequential things and napping—she’s napping, he’s reading, hopefully not one of Castle’s books—until Lanie arrives, toting with her a handheld mirror and makeup from Kate’s apartment. This small act does wonders to help Kate feel like herself again, and she’s sorry to see Lanie go after only half an hour. Her father returns less than a minute after Lanie steps out of the room and doesn’t leave her side until Esposito knocks on the door.
“Yo, Beckett, I’m just stopping by to tell you that you'd better get back to the precinct as soon as possible,” Esposito greets her in standard cop-speak. “There's a lot of paperwork piling up on your desk, and Ryan and I ain't gonna do it all for you.”
“Thanks for the sympathy, Espo,” she says, smiling.
“For what, that tiny chest wound? I've had a splinter that hurt worse.” Kate wants to laugh but knows it's impossible; it hurts too much.
“Sorry, Espo, I must not have your pain tolerance. After all, what am I next to a big hunk of ex-Special-Forces muscle?”
Esposito grins. “Listen, we’re doing everything we can to find the guy that put you in here.”
“I know. But don’t let Castle run away with his crazy theories while I’m not there to stop him. I promise you, this has nothing to do with a CIA sting operation gone wrong or Russian spies.”
“Castle? Castle hasn’t come by all day; we thought he was with you.”
“I haven’t seen him since this morning.” She must have upset Castle more than she thought. Could this be the beginning of the end of their partnership? But no, he said he would come back later. Perhaps only to say goodbye? Maybe now that he’s seen her like this, he isn’t interested anymore. Maybe in this state she isn’t enough like Nikki Heat to hold his attention.
“Huh. Maybe he had to take care of Alexis or something.” She thinks Alexis has school today, but it’s no use arguing the point. “Ryan’s expecting me back soon. Just a head’s up, I think the precinct’s amassing a shipment of flowers to send over here, so be prepared. A whole truck-full.”
She smiles. “Thanks, Espo.”
She expects her father to come back once Esposito leaves, but to her surprise he doesn’t show. Seeing how the course of the day went, she half expected her friends to have come up with a visiting schedule to keep her occupied for all hours of the day. She’s glad for some time alone. Her solitary disposition doesn’t coincide well with entertaining people for so long.
After a minute of marveling at how much she’s been able to stay awake today, sleep overtakes her. When she comes to again, someone is sitting beside her, running their thumb in invisible patterns down her forearm.
“Hey, you.” Josh.
“Hey,” she gifts him a smile even though they hurt.
“How do you feel?”
“Okay, I guess. Although I wish I could rub my nose.”
He laughs. “They’ll take you off of oxygen tonight, I promise, when they bring you dinner.” Her boyfriend adopts a mock-serious tone. “Don’t get too excited, you won’t like it much.”
“Still, it’s one step closer to getting out of here.”
“Whoa, that won’t happen for a good long while. You just had a bullet removed from your chest that nicked your heart, Kate, you can’t expect to be up and running again so soon.”
“I…” Her disappointment is clear in her voice.
“Hey, look. Just let me take care of you for a little while. Once you’re released, I’m planning to take a couple weeks off to help you get back on your feet. The trip to Africa with Dr. Carroll can wait another year.” She frowns. This is all wrong. He shouldn’t be putting his life on hold for her, not when…not when her heart belongs to someone else.
“No, listen, Josh,” she says. She hates what she’s about to do, but it needs to be done. She can’t take this career opportunity away from him just to use him as a buffer against Castle’s advances. It’s unfair. “I don’t want you to put your life on hold for me. Go do your rounds, go to Africa.”
“Kate, it’s not a problem. I want to.” She shakes her head, the tubes in her nose tightening uncomfortably. Emotions flash through his face, shock, disbelief. “You’re…you’re breaking up with me? This is it?”
“I’m sorry, Josh.” She averts her gaze.
“This is about him, isn’t it? Castle. The author you’re always talking about, your partner at the Twelfth.”
“No, I get it, really. I was always second to you. I’m just sorry you finally came ‘round.” He stands suddenly, the rolling stool ricocheting off the cabinet behind him with a bang. She flinches. “God, I was so—” he stops mid-sentence, tirade stopping as he remembers she’s still in a hospital bed. Stopping as he sees the regret in her eyes, the way she flinches away from his raised voice. “Goodbye, Kate.” He strides out the door.