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The Most Desperate Word of All...

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Beckett paced the corridor outside the ICU: the doctors weren't letting her or anyone else see Castle -- Rick -- just yet, not till he was stabilized and that wasn't happening, given the number of doctors and nurses heading in and out of the unit with looks of professional determination and calm.

If she hadn't let him talk her into letting him on that stake out. If they hadn't been spotted by the suspects. If he hadn't tried to be a hero and jumped into the line of fire. Even that ridiculous bulletproof vest of his with "WRITER" emblazoned on the front wasn't enough to keep him safe. Someone that powerful could boast goons packing armor-piercing rounds.

If... If... If...

She kicked herself for letting herself fall into this kind of thinking. She couldn't blame herself. They both knew something like this could happen: she might be more aware of it, but in the past year, the funniest kid in the class had grown up. He knew how dangerous her work really was. Castle had been the one cradling her in his arms when she was shot at Montgomery's funeral. Now she had been the one who'd caught him when he'd fallen, taking the bullets for her. The paramedics that Ryan and Esposito had called in had to pry her off him.

No... couldn't go there, either. She had to keep it together for him, for his sake. He needed her to keep her head clear for him, for when he woke up. If he woke up.

No. Couldn't fall into that pit, either. She had to keep her head up. But she was tired of keeping her head up. She just wanted to scream, 'Why?!' Why him?

Why him, indeed. Why had he gotten under her skin like this?

Because he was in her corner. Because he had pushed her into running toward the question of her mother's death, instead of away from it.

Because he cared about *her*. Because he wanted her to face her darkness. Because he was there, helping her face it.

The door to the ICU opened and an older doctor with the look of a dapper city doctor from the Jazz Age, despite the scrubs he wore, came out, a look of hope in his eyes. "Ms. Beckett, you can see him now: he's resting quietly..."