It's not till the doctor gets her alone that she knows that there's something wrong.
"Detective Beckett... Kate."
If she wasn't so tired, she'd be scared. "What is it?"
"You crashed on the operating table. We couldn't get your heart started again."
She shakes her head, confused, thinking that the fading anaesthetic must be making her hear things. "Wh-what? But I'm alive, I'm sitting here talking to you, so you must have."
"We didn't, Kate."
It's starting to sound like one of Castle's crackpot theories, like a practical joke. She glances over at the heart monitor. "So, what, that's fake?" She treats the doctor's words with the contempt they deserve.
"Yes. I know this seems confusing to you—"
"Confusing? Certifiable is what this seems. Did Castle put you up to this? Because if he did, believe me, your hospital—"
The doctor grabs her hand and puts her fingers to her neck, right where her pulse should be. And there's nothing there. She moves her fingers, certain that they were just in the wrong position, but she can't find it.
She takes her hand off her neck, and tries her wrist, certain that she's got the right position this time. That was what the problem was, she just didn't have the right spot on her neck.
There's still nothing. She moves her fingers. Maybe she's forgotten everything she knows about locating a pulse; there's got to be a rational explanation for this. And it's right then, when she realises that she should be hyperventilating, that she notices.
She's not breathing.
Her brain reels—how is her brain even working, there's no blood pumping around her body, no oxygen getting to it—and when the thoughts stop whirling, she only has one question. "Am I a...a..." She swallows, a detached part of her notes that when she needs to speak she does take a breath. "A z-zombie?" The word is hard to get out. It sounds so ridiculous. She's not lurching around, arms extended, droning 'brains'.
The doctor grimaces. "We don't particularly like that word. Some people call it alternatively alive, others say that they've been 'resurrected', or call it the 'resurrection virus'. It affects a small number of people in the world, but the numbers have been growing over the last hundred years."
"So it's a virus?"
That gets a shrug. "We know very little, still, even though we've been studying it for years. You have to understand, we've had to keep almost absolute secrecy about this. If the general public found out, or any government found out... How would you like to become a test subject for the rest of your life? Secrecy and the small number of people affected have hindered how much research we've been able to do. What we do know is that somehow your body stops needing oxygen or flowing blood. Something else takes over, the chemistry in your body changes."
"Will I go back to normal?"
"No. But at some point, your body will just stop working and you'll die." He looks at her seriously, and then carefully enunciates each word. "Kate, you cannot tell anyone about this. Not your father, not your friends."
It's a big ask, particularly when she considers what could happen. "If something happens to me, I think they're going to notice that I don't breathe or have a pulse. They might notice the breathing anyway."
"There are people who will help you with that, after you get out of here. In the meantime, if you have visitors, try to remember to consciously take a breath."
As if it wasn't already enough. Josh, Castle, Captain Montgomery. Everything. Now she has this, too. She is a freak.
She can't look at Castle when she lies about what she remembers. Can't take the pain that he is trying to hide. Even if she wants to be with him, even if she...loves...him, how can he love something that is alternativelyalive?
Alternatively alive; it's politically correct bullshit. For all Castle's excitement about the world, if he finds out, how can he see anything but a zombie when he looks at her? And hiding it from him? Hiding it from anyone? The idea overwhelms her.
The doctor had assured her it was possible. That with time she can do it.
She isn't sure whether she believes him.
Everybody is so nice. Helpful. She has just over two months before she returns to work, and Gavin, the man who runs the rehab facility for mutants (her words, not his), assures her that it is enough. Enough for her to learn how to fake being alive.
She only starts to believe him once she realises that he's just like her.
The self-pity party ends when she finds out that the young couple two doors down with a five-year-old girl are facing the same challenges she is. Their daughter 'died' three months ago. Only five and she has to learn how to pretend to be alive. They don't even know when they'll be able to live in normal society again.
Maybe her life isn't going to be what it was. But it's still a life.
Beckett stands outside her squad room, looking in. She takes a breath, aware that she's forgotten again, her inner turmoil too strong. Most of the time she can breathe without thinking about it now, but not always.
Now for the hard part: the rest of her life.
"It's okay Castle! I'm fine!"
"But he just smothered you to death! How can you be fine?"
"I can hold my breath for a really long time. And the pillow lets more air through than you'd think."
"Huh. Neat party trick, I guess. Can you untie me now?"
"What'll it take?"
"Coffee and muffins...for a month."
"For a month? That's a bit... Okay, okay. Fine. You win."
"I always do, Castle, I always do."
"I could wait until Ryan or Esposito get here, they wouldn't insist on a reward. Wait, Beckett, come back. I was joking..."
This is what she has been terrified of for so long. The look in his eyes. Disgust, horror.
"What are you?"