Castle watches the muted grey morning light wash over Kate’s shoulders where they peek out above the sheet. Even with her head turned away she looks more relaxed than he’s seen her in months. The fact that it’s here in his space, with him, that she’s finally been able to lay down her burden releases something inside him that has been knotted and tight since he watched her fall to the ground almost a year ago.
He stays until the temptation to tease her awake is stronger than the will to let her rest. Reluctantly, he drags his body out of bed, placating himself with the prospect of returning to her with breakfast. Knowing Kate, she will not have eaten since the chaos began the previous day.
As he passes through his study, he picks up his phone out of habit and flicks it on while he heads to the kitchen. The missed call notification from Beckett glares at him accusingly and he grimaces before turning the phone off again and laying it on the counter.
Considering breakfast options, he opens the refrigerator to see what’s available, then checks the cabinet. If ever a morning called for pancakes…. He grins. He should probably make four kinds of pancakes.
The strange background buzzing doesn’t register as his phone for a few rings and when it does he glances at it, perplexed. He never gets calls this early unless it’s Beckett calling with a case, and it’s clearly not her.
Instead, Ryan’s picture pops up on his display and he feels a tug of regret that the real world is encroaching already.
“Castle.” Ryan sounds breathless and even over the phone the relief in his voice is palpable.
“What’s going on? Is everything okay?”
“Okay? Actually not really. I was just calling…Castle, have you heard from Beckett? I’ve been trying to reach her and she’s not answering. I finally went to her apartment but she isn’t answering her door. I’m not sure what happened between you two yesterday, but I thought maybe…” He takes a breath and his voice steadies and grows more serious. “Things didn’t go well yesterday. I’d feel better if I knew she was-”
“She’s…she’s there?” There’s a pause and then, “Oh. Oh. That’s good, right?”
Castle has to chuckle. “Yeah, it’s good. Really good.”
He can hear Ryan let out a long sigh. “I’m just glad to know where she is.”
“Ryan, are you okay?”
“I was worried. It was a close call, Castle. Way, way too close. And that guy is still out there. When he realizes she’s-” He stops speaking abruptly and then asks, “Did she tell you anything?”
“We haven’t really talked yet.”
“Oh. Of course. Right,” Ryan stutters apologetically and if Castle weren’t so concerned about what he is saying the awkwardness would make him laugh out loud.
“She did tell me that she almost died, but I didn’t get any specifics. Yet.”
“That’s an understatement, but I should probably let her tell you the details.” He stops, but Castle can tell there is more he wants to say. “The thing is, Beckett and Esposito went off on their own against protocol and without backup.” With a resigned sigh, he adds, “I…uh…I called in Gates.” His tone becomes more grim. “There were consequences. At the precinct. With Gates.”
“She hasn’t said anything about that.”
“Hopefully she will.”
“It sounds like, if I’m understanding you correctly, that if you hadn’t been there…?”
“Yeah.” The word hangs heavy in the silence that follows.
“Thank you, man,” he whispers. “Thank you.”
He can hear Ryan clearing his throat. “I wanted you to know, Castle, when we found her she was calling your name. I think she was a little disappointed it was just me when we hauled her up.”
“Hauled her up?” Castle asks, confused, then closes his eyes and says a silent prayer to whatever god has seemingly gifted Kate with more than her fair share of lucky chances. “Clearly there’s much more to this story that I need to get from Beckett. Is Esposito okay?”
“Esposito is,” Ryan says haltingly. “Yes, he’s okay.”
His reply is defeated, empty. “Like I said, there were consequences. He hasn’t talked to me since he left Gates’ office.”
“He’ll come around. He’s got to.”
“Maybe,” he says roughly. “He’s, uh, off the grid at the moment.”
“Ryan, whatever else happens, I’ll never forget this. I owe you.” He’s getting choked up and he doesn’t even care. “I owe you everything.” He takes a few long breaths to steady his voice. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Just.” He breathes in and out but his voice is still shaky when he continues. “Just tell Beckett that I’m glad she’s safe. And Castle?”
“I’m really happy it worked out for you two.” The words and the sentiment ring true, but they don’t fully mask the younger detective’s sadness.
to be continued...