Pandora's Box 1/? (Castle) [Rev. 7/31/11]
SUMMARY: Spoilers for the season 3 finale of “Castle.” Following the events in "Knockout," Kate Beckett escapes the city for some much-needed R 'n R at an inn in the Adirondacks. Trouble's always hot on her heels, though, and while Millers Kill police officers Kevin Flynn and Russell van Alstyne can help with one of her problems -- the one that's out to kill her -- they're powerless against the problem in the writer-shaped suit.
NOTE: This fic is actually a crossover between “Castle” and the Millers Kill mysteries by Julia Spencer-Fleming. While familiarity with the characters and settings in Spencer-Fleming's books is beneficial, it will not be necessary to follow along, as the focus will be on Beckett and Castle.
DISCLAIMER: ABC Studios and Julia Spencer-Fleming own their respective 'verses and everything they encompass. This is a work of fan fiction, and thus derives no profit or material benefit therefrom.
For over thirty hours he kept vigil in the hospital lounge, feeding dollar bills into the vending machines when he needed sustenance and catnapping on the too-short sofa when not even surgical glue could keep his eyelids open. Jim Beckett was there too, his hollow, glassy-eyed stare probably not from marathoning CNN on the lounge's flat-panel TV. If he moved from the corner chair he'd claimed when they were ushered in here by a kind-hearted resident shortly after the trauma team descended upon Kate and whisked her away, it was only to pace the room's perimeter and gaze out the windows, his hands shoved in his pockets or toying with the AA medallion on his key chain.
The others, Ryan and Esposito and Lanie and his mother and Alexis cycled through, in what Castle deduced were shifts they'd agreed on amongst themselves, to ask if there'd been any updates, fill them in about the (so far fruitless) hunt for Kate's shooter, and urge the two sentinels to go home, rest, eat, shower, shave. Alexis, her wan face streaked with tears, clung to her grandmother and barely spoke above a whisper, her eyes wide as she stared at the stains on his hands and clothes. Castle urged his mother to get her home as quickly as possible before she became hysterical.
Lanie brought them the news that Josh was on the surgical team presently trying to save Kate's life along with an omelet casserole from the cafeteria, although Castle's initial relief that Kate was in good hands crumpled in the face of the realization that the bullet had probably damaged her heart. He set down the bite he'd been just about to take and buried his face in his hands, bile clogging his throat.
About seven or eight hours after Castle and Jim took up their watch the door opened and Josh came in, followed by an older woman also in scrubs. They both looked weary, but the faint smile on Josh's face and the nod he gave to Kate's father told Castle the surgery had been successful and that Kate still lived. "The bullet nicked the pericardium near her right ventricle, but luckily for her it missed the major blood vessels in that area," he was saying to Jim, and Castle thought he'd never wanted to hug another man so much in his life. "A millimeter or two in either direction and I'd probably have a much less optimistic prognosis for you."
"Katie's going to be all right then?" Jim asked.
"She's got a long road ahead of her -- apart from the bullet damage, she also suffered a partially collapsed lung -- but she's young, she's healthy, she's strong, and Dr. Najjar and I are doing everything possible to ensure her complete recovery. She's got the best odds anyone could hope for."
"When can we see her?" Castle blurted, unable to contain himself any longer.
Josh's eyes narrowed. "She'll be in post-op for some time. I don't anticipate moving her to the cardiac care unit for at least twenty-four hours. I'm afraid it's family only in PACU. No exceptions." He looked just a little too smug for Castle's liking at that moment.
Dr. Najjar opened the door. "Mr. Beckett, if you'll come with me, I can get you fitted up with a sterile gown and mask so you can see your daughter."
Jim cast an apologetic look at Castle. "Rick?"
"It's okay, you go ahead. I'll hold down the fort."
"Are you sure?"
Castle smiled tightly and waved him off, even while baring his teeth at Josh. "Really, it's fine. I'm fine. Go be with her. I -- I'll see her once she's well enough for her partner to visit her."
He still looked doubtful, but his obvious need to see his daughter won out. "Well, okay. Thanks for waiting with me, Rick." He gripped Castle's hand.
He squeezed back. "Anytime."
Seeing that Josh lingered after Jim and Dr. Najjar had left, Castle tensed, steeling himself for another dose of the man's supercilious complacency. Okay, so he'd just saved Kate's life. So he traveled to disaster-troubled places like Haiti to help the desperate. So he was... handsome, in a sort of glossy magazine cover model way, and probably younger than Castle, and, from the looks of things a lot more fit than Castle, and he didn't come with the added baggage of two ex-wives and the playboy reputation that Castle did. That still didn't give him the right to look so damned condescending.
"If you've got something to say to me, then out with it," he finally said, a hint of a snarl in his voice.
He took a deep breath, expanding his broad chest. "Go home, Rick. Kate's being taken care of. There's nothing you can do for her here. Go home, clean up, get some rest, reassure your family everything's okay, and I'll see to it someone lets you know if her condition deteriorates."
"I'm not going anywhere until I've seen her."
Josh scraped a hand over his shadowed cheeks, then shook his head. "Suit yourself. Better settle in and make yourself comfortable, because you're going to be here a while." For a moment Castle thought he was going to say something else, but instead he turned and walked away, leaving Castle alone in the lounge with Anderson Cooper yammering away on the TV and a Styrofoam box of cold eggs uneaten on the table.
Josh made Castle wait the full twenty-four hours before letting him on to the cardiac care floor to see Kate. Castle didn't know for sure him was to blame, but he made an opportune target. Of course, he just happened to be at Kate's bedside when Castle trudged in looking and feeling like a castoff from a George Romero film.
At the sight of his bedraggled state the nurse making notes from the daunting array of monitors tracking Kate's vital signs moved menacingly towards him, but her "Sir, you can't--" was unexpectedly aborted mid-stream by none other than Dr. Fabulous. "It's all right, Irene, I'll vouch for him." He gave Castle a nod. "Two minutes. Then go home and clean yourself up if you want to be allowed back on this floor. Doctor's orders."
Too tired to be grateful, too grateful to finally see Kate to retort, Castle turned his attention to her. He could see she lived, but how feeble was her grasp on that delicate thread? Her face was ghastly pale, her hair dull and matted, her lips colorless. Dark shadows beneath her eyes made her look as if she'd gone a few rounds in a boxing ring. She had a breathing tube at her nose and an IV tube taped to her hand. Another tube snaked from beneath her blanket to empty into a drainage bag. A sterile pad lay over her sternum; patches of seepage hinted at the damage that lay beneath. On the table beside her bed sat a plastic cup with a bent straw in it.
"Is she still unconscious?" Castle asked, afraid to look away, afraid to come closer.
"Asleep. She came around after the anesthesia wore off, but we're keeping her heavily sedated for the next couple of days. Heart surgery isn't a walk in the park, not even for someone in her generally good condition. Pain's going to be her constant companion for quite a while. For now, it's best that she rest and let her body's natural healing processes work their magic."
"I wouldn't have thought you the type to believe in magic."
"When it comes to Kate, I'll believe in whatever it takes to get her through this."
Still not tearing his gaze away from her, Castle heaved his shoulders in a ragged sigh. "Yeah. Me too."
"Doctor, time," came the nurse's reproving voice.
Castle never thought he'd see the day when he could be in a room with Josh and one other person, and like Josh more. He shot the nurse a glare, then, before she could evict him, reached out and stroked his fingertip across the top of Kate's near hand, following the curve between thumb and forefinger before lightly pressing the fleshy pad of her palm. He was gratified by the tiny responding twitch she gave, and couldn't resist a smirk at Josh before walking out.
He came home to an empty loft, a welcome relief given his state of mind. The hours he'd spent in agonized suspense, waiting for news of Kate's prognosis and then for the privilege of seeing her, had allowed his imagination to run riot until words and sentences boiled in his head, thoughts and images swarming like provoked hornets. As much as he wanted to stake his claim to a spot by Kate’s hospital bed, for now it was enough to know that she would pull through. She was in good hands. He would only be in the way, and in his present state of mind he didn’t think he could bear sitting around with his thumb up his ass waiting for her to come around. The emotional roller coaster he’d been on the past several days had finally coasted back to the boarding station; he was more than happy to stop screaming, put his arms down and give his seat to someone else. He had to get away, to escape the city, to go some place where he could focus all his creative energy accumulated over the past several days, to detox with a pen in his hand and a keyboard on his lap while he waited for Kate to get better.
After helping himself to some cold leftover lasagna, Castle went upstairs to shower, dress, and toss a few changes of underwear, a couple of T-shirts, and his favorite writing pants in a bag. Less than an hour after leaving the hospital he was on the Long Island Expressway, weaving through traffic on a Red Bull high as he drove east towards the Hamptons, his laptop on the seat beside him.
For the next two weeks he remained in self-imposed seclusion. Still feeling guilty over what they'd been forced to witness, he checked in periodically with his mother and Alexis, while each day he ordered a fresh vase of flowers sent to Kate's hospital room. All other contact with the outside world he cut off: incoming calls went straight to his voice mail and he disabled his Internet connection to ensure he stayed on task. All his energy and attention was devoted to writing. When he was hungry, he ate. When he couldn't hold his head up any longer, he dozed in his writing chair. When he couldn't stand his own stink, he opened the windows and doused himself in body spray.
For two weeks, he wrote like a man possessed, like a bullet fired across a cemetery, its course unerring, its destination fixed. He'd never written a full-length book in so short a time before, but then he'd never been so inspired, so driven to write. It was as though those four simple words -- "I love you, Kate" -- had sprung the lock, freeing the genie from its bottle, and now there was so much he wanted to say, so much he needed to say, before he choked to death on his own prolixity.
He'd never written anything like this book before, either. Paula had once called Heat Wave "one hell of a love letter," but Heat Wave was a mere mash note compared to this one. Paula would freak when she read it. She might even threaten to quit as his agent. He didn't care. He'd self-pub on Smashwords or Lulu if he had to. He refused to be silenced.
After two weeks, he saved the completed manuscript to his external hard drive, made a back-up copy to a flash drive and re-connected to the Internet to send additional copies to three separate e-mail addresses, showered, closed up his house, and drove back to the city. The long line of traffic headed in the opposite direction made him think it must be a Saturday, and he grinned and sped up a little more, knowing the radar guns would be pointed the other way.
He didn't even bother going home first, but drove straight to the hospital. After two weeks, he figured Kate would be alert and recovered enough to be wondering where he was. Maybe she'll have missed him. Maybe she'll even admit to it.
As he rode the elevator to the cardiac care floor, Castle entertained himself with fantasies about their reunion, the way her eyes might light up at the sight of him, her lips parting in a smile, then widening into a grin when he presented her with the ox-eye daisies he'd bought from a corner stand, her hand reaching out to bring him closer...
"Katherine Beckett?" the nurse at the desk said in response to his query when he discovered Kate wasn't in the room he’d gone to before. "She's gone, sir."