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

Castle was just about to respond to Jim's calmly stated suggestion when the door opened. It was Josh, wearing different clothes and looking as though he had at least showered and shaved, if not slept.

"Hey," he said to the two men as he came to stand by the foot of the bed. "How's our patient?"

"Nothing's changed," Jim answered. "Is that good or bad?"

"At this point, as long as all her vitals are steady, no news is good news," the doctor said. "They don't want her to wake up for several hours yet, mostly to give her body time to start the healing process."

Her father nodded. Castle began to stand, releasing the hand that he'd held for the past several hours.

"Have a seat, Josh."

"No, no, it's okay," the man said quickly. "I'll just go grab a chair from outside. Be right back."

He strode purposefully from the room, shutting the door gently behind him.

"What are you doing, Rick?" Jim asked quietly.

The writer's eyes flew to his.

"I-I just figured he'd want to sit with her. He's her boyfriend."

"And you're the man she loves. Don't abandon her just because you think you don't have a right to be here. You do."

"I won't make her choose between us," Castle said softly. "She doesn't need that."

"No, what she needs is her partner here supporting her," Jim said with a stern gaze. "What she doesn't need is for you to make her choice for her."

"Yes, sir," Castle answered just as Josh reentered the room.

He took his chair to the other side of Castle's but stood looking at all the monitors for a moment before he sat, seemingly satisfied with what he saw.

There were a few moments of quiet as Josh settled in with a sigh, reaching up to brush a lock of hair away from the injured detective's face in a gentle caress.

It was Jim that broke the silence.

"What made you decide to become a doctor?"

"Well," Josh said, gently clearing his throat, "When I was a freshman in college, before I had decided on a major, I got into a bad motorcycle accident."

Castle saw her father's slight wince, and supposed that the man was probably imagining his daughter in similar situations when she had first gotten her bike.

"No lasting damage, but I spent a few weeks in the hospital," he continued. "And even though I was mostly miserable, it was also kind of fascinating."

"How so?" Castle chimed in.

"I had this one doctor, a guy in his early thirties, and he wasn't my primary, but he'd taken care of me when I first was brought in. He came back to check on me several times while I was there. He couldn't tell me specifics about his patients of course, but he told me a few stories, told me about the rush of working to save someone's life, the reward of knowing that because of your work, someone would live another day."

The other men nodded. They could see the draw.

"So I decided to go pre-med. I figured I'd be a trauma surgeon, but we watched this one procedure on a little boy who had a heart defect."

He paused, looked thoughtful for a moment, and then continued.

"He wouldn't have lived past his teens, but they were able to repair it, and last I heard, he'd just finished college. After that procedure was when I decided I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon."

"I hear you're involved in Doctors Without Borders as well. What's that like?" Jim asked, keeping the conversation going. Castle expected that his partner's father was trying to avoid any awkward silences between the three of them.

"It is truly amazing to be able to work with people in desperate situations, whether it's because of a disaster or conflict or just poverty," Josh said, his eyes lighting up. "It really makes you realize how many needy people there are in the world, and I consider it a blessing to be able to help some of them."

Castle watched the doctor's posture relax as he talked about his work, but he also caught the slight tension in Jim Beckett's smile while he listened.

"How often do you travel?" the older man asked.

"It depends in large part on my patients here," Josh said. "If I'm between patients, sometimes I'm able to take off for a week or two, maybe a month, depending on what's going on. The hospital is really good about it, so usually I'm able to do 3 or 4 trips a year."

"You must really love it," Jim said, and Castle was able to discern the challenge in the older man's voice, though he didn't think Josh had heard it.

"I do. I've considered doing it full time."

"Why don't you?" The question was quiet, but laced with tension.

"A few reasons," the young doctor answered. "I want to finish paying off my student loans first and be a little more financially secure so I can take care of a family, if or when that time comes. Others as well, that are more complex and less concrete."

Josh had leaned back in his chair, but left his hand on Kate's shoulder, gently rubbing back and forth with his thumb. Jim leaned back as well, letting the matter drop for now.

Castle decided to take the lull as an opportunity to stretch his legs. He carefully tucked Kate's hand under the blanket and stood.

"I'm going to use the restroom and get a drink," he said. "Can I get either of you anything?"

Jim asked for a bottle of water, but Josh declined, so the writer left the room quietly, throwing a glance over his shoulder just in time to see Jim's brow furrow as he considered the younger man now stroking his daughter's arm. He paused, wondering if he should really leave the two of them alone, but his bladder was making itself known and his throat was bone dry.

He took care of business quickly, stopping by a vending machine on his way back to purchase two bottles of water.

There was no one sitting at the nurses' station when he walked by, but he hadn't gone more than a few steps past it when he heard someone call out.

"Mr. Castle?"

He turned to see a young woman poking her head out from the small office behind the desk.


"How's she doing? The detective?" The woman had a look of genuine concern on her kind face. He could see that she wasn't a nurse or a doctor. For one thing, she was too young. Maybe a college student, doing an internship or working here part-time, he thought.

"She's still out," he said on a sigh. "Dr. Davidson says she won't wake until morning most likely.

"Oh," the young woman said. "Hold on a sec."

She dashed back into the office for a brief moment and returned with three white blankets.

"Here," she said, handing them to the writer. "Dr. Davidson said he was going to stay the night, and he figured you and her dad probably would too. So, in case you get cold or something..."

She trailed off with a slight blush, and he gave her a tired smile as he checked her name tag.

"Thank you...Beth," he said. "That's very kind of you. You're sure we're not breaking any rules?"

"Well, we are," she said hesitantly. "But we make exceptions sometimes, so it's okay."

He gave her a small nod and thanked her again before turning back toward the room. He gathered himself for a moment and pushed the door open once more.

"Hey Rick," Jim greeted him as the writer handed the older man a bottle of water and a blanket. "Thanks."

"Where did the blankets come from?" Josh asked as Castle handed him one of the remaining two.

"The young lady at the desk," he said, unfolding the blanket and tucking it around his legs as he sat. "Beth is her name."

"Ahh, she's a nice girl," the doctor said with a nod. "Student at NYU. She works here part time, keeps the visitor log, helps families with paperwork, that kind of stuff."

He paused, smiling at the writer.

"I think she's a fan of your books too."

"I wondered how she knew my name."

"Well, that, and I signed you and Mr. Beckett in on the visitor log."

Castle nodded and turned to look at his partner's face. She had regained a little of her color. She was still pale, but with hints of pink. No more of the sick gray she had been before.

"She's looking a little better," he commented with a tilt of his head toward the woman in the bed.

"She's getting there," Josh said. "She'll have a long road ahead of her, but I think she'll be okay. The fact that all of her vitals have stayed steady this long is a good sign. Plus, it helps that she's in good shape already."

Castle chuckled.

"She'd have to be to chase down suspects the way she does," he said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the doctor's expression darken slightly, but the man said nothing.

"I hear you've taken part in a few thrilling heroics yourself, Rick," Jim said with a small smile.

"I have," the writer answered contemplatively. "Though looking back, they usually ended with your daughter having to save my ass, so..."

He trailed off as he caught the glint in Jim's eye.

"Not all the time," he said. "From what I've heard, you two are just about even."

Castle didn't know what to say. He was surprised to know that Kate had even admitted to needing saving to her father, much less told him that it had been the overgrown puppy of a writer who had done the saving. He finally settled for a little more humor.

"Well, I am her plucky sidekick," he joked.

"You're her partner," Jim amended. "And a damn good one at that."

Once again, the man had managed to humble him and leave him momentarily speechless.

"Thank you, sir," he finally murmured. "I do my best."

"That's all a father can ask," the older man said. "For her to have someone who will stand by her no matter what."

Jim patted Kate's hand, still grasped tightly in his own. Castle kept his eyes on the man for a moment before turning for a quick look at the doctor, who sat watching the rise and fall of his girlfriend's chest, looking distinctly uncomfortable all the while.

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