AS FOR NOW

Disclaimer: All Castle characters are the property of Andrew Marlowe and ABC.


And wait they did. For hours that felt like days, like an eternity to Richard Castle.

Alexis was asleep in his arms, her solid weight and steady breathing a comfort to him.

Jenny had joined her fiancÚ and sat next to him, rubbing soothing circles into the young man's back. Esposito and Lanie sat huddled together, holding one another's hands tightly while the M.E. leaned into the detective's shoulder.

With Jim Beckett still next to the writer, Martha had come to sit on Castle's other side, alternating between rubbing his shoulder and stroking the back of his head.

Though they were all exhausted, there had been an unspoken agreement that someone needed to stay awake, to be alert in case there was news.

Castle himself had dozed off for a little while, lulled by the warmth of his daughter and the regularity of her heartbeat against his chest.

He awoke to find Ryan watching him somberly, giving him a slight nod and a tight smile before the blue-eyed detective allowed himself to lean back in the uncomfortable chair and rest his temple against Jenny's.

Without warning, the door to the private waiting room slammed open, framing a tall figure in green scrubs, unshaven and breathing heavily.

He looked wild-eyed around the room, after a moment settling his gaze on Castle, who was already standing and depositing his daughter in the vacated chair.

"Josh..." he began, but the doctor cut him off.

"I was on shift until early this morning and I forgot to plug my phone in when I got home and went to bed. I woke up with a sick feeling a little while ago and when I finally got it working, I had a message from one of my friends that Kate had been brought in. What happened?"

He looked lost, and Castle couldn't blame him. Raising a hand to the other man's shoulder, the writer guided him to sit down.

"She was shot, Josh," he said, but as he started to think of how he would explain why or even where, he realized he wasn't sure how much the doctor knew about this case or how much Kate would want him to know. He was saved by a question.

"Have...have you heard anything?"

"Not yet, we just know they took her directly into surgery when they brought her in. That was a few hours ago."

The surgeon leaned forward, elbow on his knees, fingers interlocking behind his neck. He was pale, Castle noticed, lacking his usual tan, and he looked like he might throw up right there in the waiting room. After a few moments, he stood, and Castle was glad to see the resolve on his face.

"Let me...let me see what I can find out. I work here, and I know most of the staff, so maybe they can give me an update. I'll be back as soon as I can."

He looked around the room once more, his eyes widening a little when they found his girlfriend's father. A moment later he was crouching before the older man, reaching forward to shake his hand.

"I'm sorry we're meeting under these circumstances, Mr. Beckett."

Jim looked as though he wanted to ask something, but before he could get it out, Josh was hurrying away, back through the door he'd entered by, a man on a mission.

Castle took the seat next to him, taking in the older man's confused expression.

"That was Josh," Castle said in answer to the unspoken question. He waited for the light of recognition to appear but it never did.

"Kate's boyfriend," he prompted. "He's a cardiac surgeon."

"Oh," came the answer. "I remember Katie mentioning him several months ago. Last summer actually. I didn't realize they were still dating."

"He travels a lot," Castle said, feeling the need to give some kind of an explanation. "Doctors Without Borders. That's probably why Kate hasn't had a chance to introduce you yet."

"Mmm," Jim hummed in acknowledgment. "Maybe so."

They drifted into silence once more, waiting for news, waiting for Josh to come back.

He felt his stomach rumble and ignored it. He wasn't about to leave to get food. A few minutes later, however, he heard an answering growl from Jim's direction.

"Hungry?" he asked.

"I am, but I don't want to leave."

"Hold on, let me see what I can do."

Castle walked slowly to the nurses' station.

"I'm sorry, sir," the woman said upon seeing his approach. "We still don't have any news on Detective Beckett."

"I know you would have told us if you did," he said kindly. "I was just wondering if it would be okay for me to have someone bring in some food. We're all getting kind of hungry, but none of us want to leave. I just wanted to make sure it wouldn't be a disturbance."

"We don't really allow deliveries," she said hesitantly.

"It wouldn't really be a delivery person," he replied. "I have a driver who occasionally runs other errands for me. I could have him pick something up and bring it here."

She began to look a little more accepting of his suggestion.

"And I'd be glad to provide dinner for your staff here as well," he said, gesturing to another nurse who had just walked in along with two young men, one of whom looked like an orderly, and another who was taking a stack of papers to a filing cabinet in the corner.

The first nurse nodded.

"Alright, I guess that would be okay. And thank you for your generosity."

He smiled and turned away from the desk. Bringing his phone to his ear, he placed a quick call to his driver, asking the man to pick up several pizzas and giving him precise directions on where to find them once he got to the hospital.

Ending the call, he looked up to find Jim's eyes on him again. Castle shrugged gently and made his way back to the chair, sitting down heavily.

"There's nothing I can do to take care of her right now," he said. "The least I can do is make sure the rest of us are okay."

Mr. Beckett nodded in understanding.

"Thanks, Rick," he said, patting the younger man on the back. "My daughter...all of us...we're lucky to have you."

Castle gave a half-smile.

"Not nearly as lucky as I am," he answered as his gaze drifted over his mother and daughter, over Lanie and Esposito, Ryan and Jenny, before coming back to Jim.

"Food will be here soon, and hopefully Josh will come back with good news before too long."

The pizza arrived just before Josh did. They had all dug in, Castle leaving two of the pizzas at the nurses' station with a tight smile and a nod. There was none of the laughter and joking that usually appeared when he shared takeout with the detectives and occasionally Lanie, nor any of the gentle ribbing or affectionate touches that accompanied dinners with his mother and daughter. They simply ate, solely for the purpose of keeping themselves going.

But when the door opened again, they all froze. Castle's slice of pepperoni, halfway to his mouth, dropped back to the napkin on his lap.

"She's stable," Josh reported breathlessly, looking as if he'd run through the halls in his haste to tell them. Castle suspected it was more from mixed adrenaline and fatigue. He beckoned the man to an empty chair and set a pizza box and a Coke next to him. The doctor nodded gratefully.

"I got there just as they were bringing her out of surgery," he said. "She's nowhere near out of the woods, and they've still got her in ICU, but they're hopeful."

Castle felt himself let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and saw that the others seemed to be doing the same.

"They asked me to give them a little bit to get her settled and make sure all her vitals are where they should be. But then I can take a couple people back."

Josh took a bite of his pizza, looking to Jim in an unspoken question of who would go with him. The eldest of the group glanced over at Castle, finding him leaning over with his eyes closed, though whether in relief or silent supplication, he wasn't sure. He looked next to Lanie, his daughter's best friend, who was also watching the writer. She caught his eye and inclined her head toward the hunched man, affirming the decision that had already been made. Jim nodded and looked back at Josh.

"What else can you tell us? Damage?"

Josh visibly winced at the thought of detailing his girlfriend's injuries to her father, but he knew that they all needed as much information as possible.

"The bullet passed through her stomach. I won't say it wasn't a mess, but they were able to stitch everything up. The biggest worry now is infection. If they can keep her from getting an infection, or at least treat it quickly if she does, she should be okay with time."

The room was silent for a few moments as they all processed the information. Josh finished his second slice and stood.

"Thanks for the pizza. Mr. Beckett?"

The older man rose from his seat, and reached over to place a hand on Castle's shoulder. The author still hadn't opened his eyes.

"Come on, Rick."

Castle looked up suddenly, confused.

"No, Lanie should go. She's Kate's best friend. Or Javier or Ryan...they're her partners."

He sought out their eyes, and though they still looked worried, they also looked determined and hopeful.

"You're her partner, bro," Esposito encouraged. "Go on."

Lanie nodded.

"She wouldn't have survived the past few days if it weren't for you, Writer Boy."

Out of the corner of his eye, Castle caught Josh's sharp look, but he just nodded to Lanie and the rest and turned back to Jim and the surgeon.

"Okay, let's go."

As he followed the two men out, he looked back at his family.

"Mom, you and Alexis should go home. I'll keep you updated, but you both need to get some rest. You can come back tomorrow."

They nodded at him and watched as he squared his shoulders and left the waiting room.

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