Here you go my lovelies. 10,000+ words! This one took longer than expected because I just couldn’t stop writing. For some reason this entire fic is in the third person. I don’t know why. It just didn’t feel right when I tried to write the OC in the first person.
They all sat around the chapel’s table, voting on their
latest retaliation efforts. Lee counted the unanimous ‘Yay’ and slammed his
gavel down on the table. The men began to murmur, agreeing with the measures to
be taken and thrilled to get to drinking. It was Friday after all.
“Wait!” Lee stood up, gesturing to the group to wait.
They all turned their attention to him, “I hired a new bartender. Be nice.”
A few eyebrows raised at his announcement. They knew
about the bar being short staffed, but they didn’t think he’d been in the
market for more employees. Needless to say, the boys were intrigued. He’d never
warned them to be nice before. He thought about the woman he hired. She was far
from timid, but she’d be a shock to the rest of the boys. They definitely
wouldn’t expect her to be standing behind their bar, doling out the shots.
link awakes. panic curls in his belly, heartbeat chasing the lingering fear of an untraceable nightmare. there’s sweat under his tailbone, in his armpits, and at the back of his knees, and as he forces himself to breathe slow, a cool breeze sweeps in through the open dorm room window and prickles his heated skin.
he counts ten big breaths before rolling over, heavy body gently rousing as the mattress gives beneath him. he blinks open his eyes now, weary and blurry, and focuses on the clock atop the drawer. its square, green numbers hum back at him - 4:58 in the morning. he waits for a moment, hoping to catch the switch of a new minute, but doesn’t. instead, link groans and sits up, pulling his knees to his chest, and stares blankly at the jacket draped over the back of his desk chair.
rhett sleeps quietly beside him, weighty and soundless. the warmth of his long body hovers inches above his skin, and link knows if he were to put a palm on the upturned expanse of his belly, he’d soak up his friend’s ability of a peaceful sleep. he keeps his hands at his knees, though, and instead studies rhett’s face. his handsome features lay slack in sleep, not even the barest hint of a worried crease between his brows. he is, as always, a masterpiece.
he’s here now, in link’s bed, because the night before, link had been anxious. as it often can be, link’s brain was struggling to overwork itself on nothing but the strain of a long day, and everything was threatening to snap. so link had called rhett over, knowing his presence and the sound of his voice would calm him. it had, sending link right off to sleep, but apparently, rhett had followed. that happens sometimes, when rhett’s worn himself out from talking and doesn’t feel the need to walk the three steps to his own bed. link doesn’t mind, though.
link admires the sweet blond lace of rhett’s lashes before turning away, suddenly bashful. he observes the room around him, awash in the low silver glow of a morning not yet risen. the dim light is still and grounding, and a few bold songbirds chirp from their perches outside. another whisk of wind comes through, this time kissing link’s cheeks and neck, and tempers him. his heartbeat has calmed now and continues to slow as he counts every poster or photograph on his bedroom walls - there are twenty-three.
next to him, rhett shifts. link remembers the cool, level tone of his voice the night before and the familiar touch of a hand on his thigh, and how it took only rhett’s simple existence to bring link down to earth. yes, it’s not a stretch to say that rhett always makes link feel safe, as it’s been since that very first year. with rhett beside him, link can take on the world, every anxious moment of it.
link feels blessed for that, for rhett. silently, he thanks god for the boy in his bed.
and the boy, it seems, hears him. rhett rolls over, throwing one long arm out behind link and over the bed. if link had been sleeping, rhett’s arm would have fallen ‘cross his chest, and judging by the way rhett squirms and groans now, sleepy smile on his young face, link thinks he might have soon played rhett’s teddy bear. rhett shuffles closer to the spot link would have been, and link suddenly feels very warm.
with rhett here, his nightmares are gone, be them waking life or no. with rhett here, link knows he’s not alone, he’s loved, and he will always be protected. with rhett here, link feels safe in the early morning light.
smiling now, link shoves rhett over and lays back down. rhett wiggles closer, and link turns his head to check the bedside clock. a few soft rays of golden sunlight fall through the open window as link catches the impossible frame between this moment and that one.
Josh storms out of the hospital room, knocking into Castle’s shoulder as he goes. Completely unrepentant and entirely rude. But that’s fine, it’s fine, because she is fine. She’s going to be fine.
Castle hesitates only a moment, ducking to check his reflection in the sheen of the overhead lights. He looks as jittery and exhausted as he feels. The flowers are too garish, too vibrant, but he has nothing else.
He has nothing else.
Castle opens the door and takes a tight breath, hoping for courage.
Her head turns - slowly - as he walks in.
She’s washed out. Too careful, the way she holds herself, sitting upright in the hospital bed. Her skin so pale it looks like parchment.
“Castle,” she says, his name an undertone from her thinning lips. Thinning into a smile.
“Hi,” he says inanely. “Hey. Beckett.” He holds up the bouquet, and she lifts two fingers from the blanket, gesturing towards the table.
He adds it to her bedside, feeling inadequate, awkward.
He jerks his eyes back to her and sinks to the chair without even looking, nearly missing it. Her eyes are so darkly luminous that it steals his breath.
“Hey,” she says. Her lashes close and open again, a heartbeat.
“How - are you feeling?” he asks, leaning in so that his elbows are on his knees. “Do you remember what happened? The nurse said you were asking questions.”
“I have… questions.”
“I’ll do my best,” he promises, straightening up again, looking smart. He’s anxious, and he realizes it’s selfish of him, wanting to know where she stands when she can’t stand at all.
Castle lets out a breath, scrubs a hand down his face.
“I should let you get some rest,” he murmurs.
“You promised. To answer questions.” Her voice is like water over gravel, rough but beautiful.
“I will,” he says quickly. “But you should rest. I can tell you the story instead. How about that? You lie there, you rest. I’ll talk.”
Her fingers lift from the bed, her eyes so dark on him, so very dark and so very alive.
“Not yet,” she says. Her lids fall, lashes lacing together, delicate and dark like bird’s wings. And then part, each lash separating, and those eyes are on him again.
Hungry, absorbing all light.
“Answer,” she murmurs, her throat working. She looks like she’s going to fade at any moment. “One question for me, Castle.”
He leans forward, his hand coming to the side of the bed, arrested. “Anything.”
She sighs and her head tilts towards him, her fingers lifting and tracing the line of his thumb.
“You love me?”
Everything sobers. Stops. Her eyes are heavy and dark on his.