He’s waiting at the altar, his daughter at his side, his nerves growing worse with every passing second. She should have been walking down the aisle to meet him by now. Kate would never be late, not for their wedding, and god, something is wrong. He can feel it deep in his gut.
When they hand him the phone and he’s met with the voice of the chief of the fire department, his blood runs cold.
She should have been here hours earlier, should have spent the last hour getting ready with her bridal party in one of the guest rooms of his massive vacation home, but she had never made it. She had gone to visit her mother’s grave before making the drive up and she had even called him on her way out of the cemetery, her voice soft and watery while she flirted with him and expressed her quiet excitement to make her way to him, to marry him.
She had never made it and he falls to his knees at the sight of why after he’s driven down the road, to the site of the fiery crash that consumes the Mercedes he had insisted she borrow (can’t have you driving to our wedding in the same car you escort criminals around in, Beckett).
He hears the shout of his name from his daughter, the calls from Esposito and Ryan to get back, but it doesn’t stop him from tripping down the embankment, tears blurring his eyes as he races towards the burning vehicle, a symphony of no, no, please no spilling from his lips.
"Kate," he breathes, heart pounding with adrenaline and panic and need. Need to see her alive, alive and not engulfed by flames.
The flames grow the closer he tries to get, needing to know, to see inside, and he stumbles to the ground, dirt that turns to mud under the sudden downpour staining his knees.
Once the fire has been tamed, he rises, forcing himself to learn the truth, fearing the potential of what he’ll see when he finally looks into the driver’s seat.
But it’s empty.
Relief floods him as he calls up to the small, terrified crowd of his family and friends, but the relief is short lived. Because she may be alive, but she isn’t here.
Being in the precinct without her leaves a sour taste in his mouth. He sits in her chair, traces his finger over her elephants, her name plate, and does what little he can to help work her case. But it isn’t easy and he nearly gets kicked out when an FBI agent accuses Kate of being nothing more than a runaway bride looking for a way out and he shoves the guy into the wall with a little too much force.
She never would have run away, not from this, not from him, not again. He doesn’t care what they say.
The call comes in two months later and the sight of her nearly sends him to his knees on the hospital floor. Her face is colored red with burns from the sun and her hair is limp, dirty and untamed, but it’s her.
"Kate," he whispers, his voice breaking along the single syllable of her name, but her eyes remain shut.
Alexis and his mother stay for a while, tears of relief glazing their matching blue eyes, and to have his entire family back together is the greatest gift he could ask for.
She wakes when it’s just the two of them, her slim fingers twitching beneath his palm just seconds before her eyes slide open.
Castle lifts from the uncomfortable plastic chair at her bedside and her eyes find him instantly.
"Castle," she rasps, reaching for his cheek when he lowers himself to hover above her, needing the closeness, needing the reassurance of her soft voice and her trembling touch. "Castle, the wedding - I missed the wedding."
Her eyes darken with the realization, filling with sorrow and tears, but he shakes his head, brushing his thumb along the paper thin skin beneath.
"It’s okay," he promises her, dusting a kiss to her forehead. "It’s okay. We can get married some other time, any other time. All that matters is that you’re back."
Her brow furrows and her tired eyes search his face.
"Back?" she echoes, confusion rippling through the word. "Where - where did I go?"
It’s his turn to feel confused.
"You were gone," he chokes, swallowing it down when the concern pools in her eyes, etches into the lines of her face. "For two months, Kate."
"Two months? No. No, there was the accident and - and then I was here," she argues, panic slowly threading into her voice, and he tries to calm down, to keep her calm.
"That’s all you remember?" he whispers and she nods her head, but the panic is embedded into her eyes and he knows she isn’t lying this time.
"Two months," she repeats, clutching the hand residing near her hip and he quickly threads their fingers, brings her knuckles to his lips. "Castle, if - how can I not remember two months? How-"
"I don’t know," he breathes, cupping one of her cheeks with his free hand and he knows this much touching all at once would usually drive her crazy, but she presses her cheek into his palm, holds tight to his hand, and he’s grateful. Because he couldn’t let her go if he tried. "I don’t know what happened, but we’ll figure it out."
She nods and laces her arms around his neck, her grip secure and tight, and Castle cradles her body in close, whispers reassurance into her hair. He doesn’t know what happened, and he knows she already needs answers, but for now, he has the love of his life back.
It’s enough for now.