Prompt: Castle falls asleep on Beckett's chest.
Post 4x04, Kick The Ballistics.
She hated for him to see her broken, raw and trembling and overwhelmed with inner demons, but part of her had been grateful for the one time she had let him. In her own apartment, during an unexpected panic attack a couple of weeks ago, he had touched the shaking bone of her shoulder, murmured comforting words, relatable words.
I know, Kate, I know. I have them too.
She hadn’t necessarily believed that, couldn’t picture Rick Castle enduring the torturous episode of a panic attack, but he hadn’t been lying to her.
The return of Jerry Tyson had rattled him, she knew that, and ever since the heartbreak she had caused him throughout the summer, their partnership had been a bit more tentative. Her shooting, those words she isn’t supposed to remember, still looming over them, she knew that too. Castle was under a lot of stress, probably dealing with a good dose of emotional turmoil, but that knowledge hadn’t prepared her for his mother to call her in quiet distress, worried over her son and unsure of what else to do.
“This has happened before, once not long after the divorce with Meredith, when he was under so much pressure,” Martha had babbled, her voice a contradiction of calm and factual, frantic and fearful. “And I know he doesn’t like for anyone to see him like this. But I could hear him when I went to let him know I was leaving and he just sounded so - so grief stricken, and I just can’t not-”
“I’m on my way,” Kate had promised his mother, already changing directions, turning away from the entrance of the subway that would take her home and towards the sidewalk instead, hailing a cab that would get her to his loft quicker. “Just ten minutes, I’ll be there.”
“I’ll leave the door unlocked for you, darling.”
Martha had stuck true to her word and after impatiently riding the elevator to the top floor of his building, Kate is able to stride inside the loft, take the path to his office without a second thought. Her fingers pause over the handle to his bedroom door, though, apprehension flaring in her stomach. She’s never been inside his bedroom and it isn’t her right to just barge in.
“I’ll be out in just a moment, Mother,” he calls out when she knocks, and he’s a skilled actor, talented in the roles he plays for those he doesn’t allow inside, but she can still hear the slight quiver in his voice.
“Not your mom, Castle,” she calls back, hearing nothing but silence on the other side of the door for a split second before his footsteps rush towards her.
The door swings open and despite the smile he musters for her, she can see the cracks in his exterior.
“Beckett, to what do I owe the pleasure of an unexpected visit?” he quips. “And how did you get in here?”
“Your mom let me in while she was on her way out.” Technically, it was true. “I thought after everything with this case and 3XK… I thought you could use some company.”
His eyes ripple with surprised delight, gentle appreciation, and she wishes she would have thought to come to him sooner, to care enough to check on him without his mother having to inform her of his current state.
“I - that’d be great. Have you eaten?”
“No,” she admits, biting her bottom lip when Castle steps out of his office, his hand rising to glance the small of her back before it quickly falls away. She misses the warmth of his palm without even having the chance to experience it. “Have you?”
“I was just about to,” he lies, the grin stretched across his lips charming but strained, enough for her to see through.
She doesn’t comment on it, doesn’t try to bring up what she knows is bothering him, but she does stick close to his side in the kitchen, helping him heat up leftover pasta that smells divine despite its time in the fridge. She sits beside him on the couch while they eat, engages in the comfortable small talk, the silence that falls between bites yet never becomes awkward. Not with him.
“How’re you holding up?” Kate finally asks after he’s set his bowl down on the coffee table in front of them, taken the last sip of the red wine he had poured in matching glasses for them. She still nurses hers between her palms.
Castle tilts his head at her in feigned confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Rick,” she murmurs, watching him physically deflate, sighing out in defeat as his shoulders slump, his lips falling into a frown and his eyes going dull, and she stretches forward to deposit her wine glass on the table beside his.
“I’m okay,” he states with a shrug. “Not even sure why it bothers me so much. Ryan is the one who went through hell during this case.”
“What Tyson did to you both was equally traumatizing-“
“Trauma?” Castle scoffs, shaking his head at her. “I didn’t - there’s no trauma, Kate. I’m fine. I just - I guess this case had me afraid that Tyson would step up his game, come after us, people I care about.”
“We never would have let him come after Martha or Alexis,” she swears to him, hoping the knowledge that he had an entire precinct ready to protect his family if need be would provide him with comfort, but she watches his lips purse instead.
Kate shifts on the sofa to face him, her brow creasing with confusion. “Me?”
Castle scrapes a hand through his hair and averts his eyes, looks as if he’s about to rise, take a page from her book and make a run for it, so she drapes her hand atop his knee, effectively stays him.
“I can’t protect you,” he gets out without meeting her eyes. “Couldn’t protect you. I wouldn’t have been able to stop Tyson if he had-“
“Castle, stop,” she breathes, her fingers clenching hard over the bone of his knee.
“And I know you don’t need my protection, but I can’t - God, I can’t lose you again, Beckett,” he confesses, his head in his hands and his body curling in on itself, protecting himself. From her. “Not like that.”
“You’re not,” Kate chokes out, the terrible grief clogging her throat, knotting in her chest beneath the bullet scar that consumes her sternum, consumes everything.
She’s close enough to drop her forehead to the rounded bone of his shoulder, the scent of his aftershave drifting up to greet her, embrace her, and she inhales a deep breath of it, of him, and swallows down her own anguish, focuses on Castle’s.
His spine is stiff, his entire frame rigid beneath the foreign proximity she offers, and Kate reaches for one of the hands fisted in his hair. He lets her have it without resistance, his head turning towards her to watch as she cradles his fingers in her palm, strokes her thumb along his knuckles.
“You’re not,” she repeats, feeling the intensity of his gaze resting on her, searing through her. “I’m still here, Castle,” she whispers, drawing his palm to her chest, up to her heart.
The harsh intake of his breath shudders through them both, but he allows her to keep his hand flat against her sternum, her heart galloping to meet his palm, crashing against the cage of her ribs to feel the warmth of his skin seeping through her shirt.
She couldn’t return his confessions of love, not yet, not with words, but she could offer him this - reassurance in whatever form he needed. She could let him hold onto her heart before she gave it over completely.
“Kate,” he whispers back, but she doesn’t answer, her forehead still sealed to his shoulder, a new favorite place of rest, one where she’s content to remain.
And that’s what they do for a long while - remain. His hand cradled to her chest, her forehead to his shoulder, and his body beginning to lean into hers as time passes.
“Don’t go,” Castle sighs out, his hand going slack beneath hers, and she controls the descent of his fist to her side before she attempts to rise from the sofa. “Beckett-“
“Shh, let’s get you to bed, Castle,” she murmurs, squeezing his bicep before she stands, tugs him up with her. “I’ll stay a little while longer.”
That earns a surprised quirk of an eyebrow despite his drowsy state, the exhaustion from the panic attack that had caused his mother to dial her number, from the pasta and the wine that has even her eyes feeling heavy, from the thought of losing her - all of it overtaking.
He shuffles towards his bedroom with her at his side, his warmth like a magnet she fails to stray from, her body easing onto the edge of his bed even as he plops down. Her mind is in turmoil, red flags and alarm bells plaguing every inch of her skull, but her heart beats hard and fervent behind the walls that bind it, keep it from the man lying next to her on the bed.
“You really don’t have to stay,” he mumbles around a yawn, offering her a reassuring smile, the one he often uses to comfort her, calm her, and they may still be waiting, but that doesn’t mean she can’t stick around, take care of him a little longer, whether he needs her or not. God knows he would do the same for her without hesitation.
“Just for a few minutes,” she replies, easing down onto her side, facing him, and holding her breath as he reaches out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Kate,” he murmurs, his fingers traveling to stroke up and down her spine, eliciting shivers and streaks of heat all at once, sending her eyes fluttering shut. “Thank you.”
They peel open at that.
“Always,” she returns, watching the blue of his eyes burn so brightly in the darkness of his bedroom before his lashes fall shut to hide the need she recognizes coming to life.
She falls asleep mere moments after she watches his eyes close for a final time, after she trains the rise and fall of her chest to the steady rhythm of his breathing beside her.
The next time Kate wakes, it’s late in the night and her eyes are thick with sleep, her chest heavy with the weight atop the frame of her ribs, the press of his cheek to her sternum, his ear at her heart. It should hurt, her muddled brain muses, the pressure atop her gunshot wound, but the seal of his cheek to her sternum does the opposite.
He anchors her.
It should terrify her too, but she blinks through the grit of her slumber to catch a glimpse of his face, slack and at peace, innocent and untouched by the grief she had passed onto him. She’ll dislodge him before morning, probably be out of his loft before he even awakens, but for now, Kate combs her fingers through his hair, sighs quietly when he tightens the arm around her waist and nuzzles gently, his nose grazing her collarbone.
This is what she’s working so hard for, trying to be better for, what they’re both waiting for. But for tonight, she erases her shooting from her mind, dispels thoughts of Jerry Tyson and the ache in Castle’s eyes when he’d said he couldn’t protect her, and gives him the beat of her heart, the drum of reassurance beneath his ear. For tonight, she allows them both a much needed rest.