She whimpered and checked her hand again. She couldn’t decide if this was new or old blood, but it didn’t really matter anyway. She only knew that she had lost too much blood already. It was critical and she could feel her body shutting down.
Not yet, please, not yet, she begged in her thoughts.
She trembled and thought she should really have packed another sweater on her way out, but then she didn’t think it would make much of a difference. Was the air always this cold or was that just an effect of the blood loss? She shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself even though it hurt. Her legs faltered and she broke down, brought to fall by something as small as a rock on the rough ground she’s walking on.
In her defence, the gunshot wound and the darkness made it hard to see, hard to coordinate her steps. She fell down and all she could think about is this is how I die. This is how I die, in a corn field, shot and fallen from grace. And no one knows. No one even cares.
When she left the Twelfth three months ago, everyone was confused by her behaviour. Why would she lose herself in drinking to the point where she would show up drunk to crime scenes if she treasured her job more than anything else? The memory of everyone’s gaze on her and Gates firing her while looking at her like Kate was her favourite student and she broke all the rules (which in fact, she did) brought her only closer to the tears that were already threatening to fall down her cheeks.
Kate couldn’t believe how weak she had gotten. She was nothing like the brave, extraordinary NYPD cop Kate Beckett once was, lost all her glory in tracking down her mother’s murderer. This time though, there was no Castle in sight, who pulled her back with coffee in hand and gentle promises of “later” and “together”.
While she missed all of her friends and her work terribly, not seeing Castle everyday was breaking her heart in ways she never thought were possible. She figured she could just cut out her own heart out of her chest and it wouldn’t hurt any less than missing him hurt right now.
She couldn’t put anyone in danger, she couldn’t tell anyone. She couldn’t call any of her friends at the Twelfth, it would only cause problems for them and working with Gates was hard enough without her needing to complicate things any further.
Castle. She could recall him telling her on one of their rare dinner turned to film nights that he was always going to be there for her, he was always just a call away. She remembered the way he used to care about her, remembered the way he used to make her coffee every morning just to see her smile, remembered how it felt to be loved by him.
Or anyone, really. It’s not like she had a bright variety of people to choose from. She couldn’t call him, she couldn’t pull him into this thing she was fallen into, couldn’t put him in danger.
If she was to die now, all her pain in the last few months had been for nothing and she couldn’t let that happen.
She knew all too well how easy and how fast love could turn into hate, but she begged that it didn’t happen to him. She was broken down to a barely surviving form of nature, just hoping to make one last call and hoped he would find it in him to care for her one last time.
It was selfish. It was stupid. It was dangerous.
But most of all, it was endangering him.
Her heart beat faster, surely to compensate the huge amount of blood she already lost until this moment.
She feels herself wanting to hear his voice one last time before sweet sleep overtakes her.
She had to get a different phone, but his number is edged into her memory, her very soul. She called him so many times, she could get it right even in her sleep by now and she’s never been more grateful for it than now. She hated it at times, hated the power he, although unknowingly, held over her, but right now, in the last stages of her life, she finds herself feeling grateful for it.
Kate types in the number her life quite literally depended on and waited.
He wouldn’t pick up. It’s her, why would he pick up now after several months of no contact?
Then it hit her. She had a new number. For him, she was just an unknown number, calling him well into the night and he had absolutely no reason to pick up. He might not pick up. He won’t pick up.
Oh god, she’s bleeding out here in a boring, lonely corn field and he’s at home in his cosy, warm loft with his family and he isn’t going to pick up.
By this point, Kate was sure that this was half the blood loss, half the panic talking, but she didn’t care enough to find out which one it was. Maybe she didn’t even have the time for it yet. Maybe her time run out and all she did with it was think about how pathetic her life turned out to be.
God, why isn’t he picking up?
She noticed black spots in her vision and she looked up to the sky.
She knew the signs of passing out, experienced it often enough to recognise the signs as soon as they arose, but this time she wasn’t sure she was going to wake up from this slumber again.
Kate only had seconds left, she knew it.
“Richard Castle, who’s there?”, he finally answered the phone.
She let out a laugh that was just as relieved as it was tragically sad.
“Who is this?”
“Castle”, she breathed.
He was silent for a few moments, though she heard his breathing speeding up.
“Kate?”, he finally asked.
“It’s me. I’m sorry to bother you, I just wanted to hear your voice one last time”, she pulled herself together to force out the words that didn’t want to leave her mouth. It exhausted her to the point of only causing more tears to fall down her cheeks.
“What are you saying? What do you mean with “one last time?”
“I’m sorry”, she only managed to say.
“Where are you? Tell me where you are, I’ll pick you up.”, he said alarmed.
Her view went black and she dropped her phone into the soft grass next to her.
“Kate? Kate!”, his voice swelled up in volume as he grew more worried by the second.
“Richard, what is going on?”, Martha asked.
They were having dinner and wanted to discuss how to proceed with the comic book adaption of the derrick storm books when he got her call.
“I’m sorry, Mother, but I have to go. Kate called and she’s… she’s somewhere out there and she’s not okay, I have to find her”, he said while he already put his phone and his keys in the pockets of his jacket.
Noticing that she can’t really stop him, she just smiled sadly. “Take care, Richard. Don’t put yourself in too much danger, you hear that?”, she said despite knowing that her son would do everything to find Beckett and keep her safe – even sacrificing himself.
He smiled at her and left the loft in a hurry.
“Castle, what are you doing here? Beckett’s not here anymore as you well know.”, Esposito frowned.
“I know, believe me. I know you guys probably have a very important case to work on, but Beckett just called me and I am very worried for her safety, I don’t think she’s alright. Can we track her phone and see where she is? I know how this sounds, but she said things like “for the last time” and her voice sounded so weak, I just want to reassure myself that she’s okay and then I’ll leave, I promise.”
“Oh god, that does sound concerning. You said she called you?”
“We can trace her phone and check her location.”
After a few minutes, Ryan noticed something.
“Here. It said that the call came from this telephone mast, which is… basically a very deserted area. Barely anyone lives there, why would she be there? And why now? I mean it is very late already”, Ryan said and looked at the clock. Ten after midnight already.
Castle didn’t notice how late it had gotten.
“Do you have an address? Or an address of somewhere in that area?”
“Sure. This couple’s house is just five minutes away from the location. Here”, he points at the pinned location on his computer screen.
Castle stood up.
“Aren’t you guys coming?”, he asked.
“Sorry, man, we got actual jobs to do. Paperwork. You’ll keep us updated though, won’t you?”, Esposito said and glared at him.
“Yeah, of course.”
After one last look, he left and sprinted all the way down to his car.
Castle finally arrived after twenty long, agonizing minutes, where he only managed to be more worried about her by the second. He exited his car and walked around. The moon was very visible today, but it didn’t cause enough light to recognize much.
He turned on the flashlight on his phone and kept searching. She must be here somewhere.
After a few minutes of searching, he spotted a body in the fields.
His heart beat faster and he was sure he could feel the blood pounding in his head. His feet seemed to be moving on their own account, because his brain was still overwhelmed with the knowledge that there’s a body out on the field, a body that could just as well be hers. It was her probably. The only question was how he would find her. Dead or alive? Would she be okay or would she bear scars from previous fights he knew nothing about? His heart beat increased with the possibility of her being hurt, of her being anything other than okay.
“Kate? Kate, are you okay?”, he scrambled down and checked her pulse. Thank God she still had a pulse. It was barely there, but it was there and he would do anything in his power to keep it there.
After the quick call for an ambulance, he put her head in his lap.
She would look peaceful, if it wasn’t for her sharp cheekbones to come out and her skin to fade to grey instead of a healthy tone.
He worried about her. Every day of these fateful three months, he worried about her. He knew she could perfectly look after herself, but he couldn’t stop thinking about more powerful people out there, people who might do her harm, people who might not see the beauty and the kindness of her soul. He worried about people he – loved? He was so sure that he was over her, so sure that she didn’t love him back, that it would be foolish to keep moping around just because she decided she didn’t need him anymore.
But, oh, he was so wrong.
One look at her and he could feel every ounce of love return to his soul, as if it never left him at all. All of their memories rushed back in and he wondered how he could ever lie to himself to the point where he believed there was a day where he wouldn’t be head over heels in love with Kate Beckett.
The wait for the ambulance felt like hours. It could be minutes and it could be days that passed in between his call and the arrival of the ambulance, but he wouldn’t know. It seemed like all sense of time had left him after she hang up on him with the words “I’m sorry” on her lips.
When she opened her eyes, the first thing she noticed was the blindingly bright, harsh light. The second thing she noticed was the feeling of someone’s hand in hers.
Her memories came floating back in, crushing her underneath their weight.
She turned her head to get a better look at him and instantly smiled. He slept adorably in the probably very uncomfortable chair next to her bed, holding her hand, comforting her even in his sleep.
His hand twitched once, before he opened his eyes. They were still sleepy and unfocused, but he found hers without a second thought.
“Beckett! You’re awake?”
“Yeah”, she smiled back at him.
“You’ve been out for days. You can’t imagine how glad I am to hear your voice”, he said, the relief and gratitude he felt were shining through his every word.
“How did you find me?”, her voice sounded raspy from the heavy sleep she was in.
“You called me, told me a tale about last times and I worried. I may have had help from our friends with locating you, then it was just a matter of time.”
She flinched at the mention of “our friends”.
“God, how are they? They must hate me by now… You must hate me”, she said while she turned her gaze away from him and ran her hand through her hair.
“They’re fine, they missed you though. Still love you if that’s what you really want to know.”
He drew circles on the back of her hand to draw her gaze back to him. He wanted her to look at him while he said it.
“And for me, I could never hate you. Over these three months, I have never spent one second not thinking about you, Katherine Beckett.”
She responded with a weak, but soft smile and looked down to their joint hands.
“I missed you”, she confessed quietly.
“I missed you even more”, he replied with a soft smile grazing his lips.
She saw the everlasting warm love for her shining through his eyes and she wondered how she got herself this man and how she managed to survive so long without him, his love, his smiles and his quiet reassurance. This man, who loved her even after she disappeared without a word for three months, after she put herself willing in danger, after everything that happened with them. She’ll never let him go again.
“Next time, I’ll be here. I don’t know what you did in the last few weeks, but I promise you, you won’t ever have to do anything alone if you don’t want to. You’ll have me. Always.”, he presses a tender kiss on her hand and she smiled softly.
She closed her eyes, held his hand tighter than usual, as if she wants to make sure he doesn’t leave her again, even in her sleep. Kate felt better than ever. With Castle on her side, she was sure she could face anything, even tell him about the depths she’d gone to catch her mother’s murder.