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

Castle awoke with a start and struggled at first to remember where he was and what would have caused such a crick in his neck.

The lights were dim as he looked around, taking in his surroundings. There was Jim, head lolled slightly to the side, blanket up to his neck and snoring softly. Josh had slid halfway down his chair and was using the still folded blanket as a makeshift pillow.

He wondered for a moment what had woken him but then realized there was a fifth figure in the room, standing near Kate's head on Jim's side. He was writing on a pad of paper and looked up when he felt Castle's gaze on him.

"Good morning," he said quietly. "I'm sorry if I woke you. I'm Cliff Andrews, Detective Beckett's attending physician."

"Morning," Castle creaked, his voice thick with disuse. "How is she?"

"She's doing well. She should be awake soon," he said.

Castle glanced at his watch, its glowing hands showing him that it was just a few minutes after six o'clock.

The writer nodded, and Dr. Andrews began to head for the door. Castle stood as he passed and followed him outside, turning the door handle so the latch wouldn't sound and wake the other men.

"Is there something you needed?" the doctor asked.

Castle decided to cut to the chase.

"What does her recovery time look like?"

"Well," Andrews hedged, "Barring infection, I'd estimate a few weeks of bed rest, about four months off work, and another two of desk duty."

Castle winced.

"So she's looking at six months of recuperation?"

"At least."

"Is there any way to shorten that time?"

The question hung in the air for a moment and Dr. Andrews looked thoughtful. Finally, he spoke.

"There are physical therapies and treatments that might cut it down substantially," the doctor said. "Maybe to a total of three or four months."

Castle hesitated for a moment before taking the plunge.

"Will her insurance cover them?"

"It's possible. She'd need to check with billing to be certain. Although the city's insurance usually doesn't cover much beyond the minimum, so she shouldn't get her hopes up."

The writer opened his mouth to speak, but the doctor beat him to it.

"If I were you, I'd talk to her father. He may be able to help you set something up, Mr. Castle."

Castle was about to respond, but once again, Dr. Andrews spoke first.

"I saw your name on the visitor log," he said, then added with a chuckle, "and my wife loves your books, so I've seen your face a few times too."

The author gave him a grim smile and reached out to shake the man's hand.

"Thank you for your advice and thank you for your care of Detective Beckett."

Andrews nodded and returned the firm grip before releasing and turning away.

"Dr. Andrews," Castle suddenly called after him, watching as the man turned back. "Please let your wife know that if she'd like, I'd be happy to sign something for her."

The doctor smiled and nodded once more.

"She'd love that, I'm sure."

He disappeared down the hall then, and Castle turned back to reenter the darkened room. All was as he'd left it, except one thing, his keen observation skills realized. Kate's right hand, which had lain flat on the sheets once Jim had released it to get some sleep, now rested against her belly. Her eyes were still closed, and he didn't think she was fully awake, but she must be regaining consciousness.

In two long steps, he was at her side, placing his own warm hand over hers.

"Kate?" he whispered, squeezing her fingers.

Her face scrunched up in a pained grimace, but slowly, ever so slowly, her eyes opened. She blinked for a few moments, and as her eyes regained their focus, Castle found his own becoming fuzzy with tears.

"Hey Castle," she rasped out, her voice quiet and scratchy.

He gave her a watery smile, and reached with his free hand to gently touch her cheek.

"Welcome back, partner."

"I go someplace?" she asked.

"Very nearly," he said softly. "You were shot, remember?"

"Ahh," she whispered, a flash of pain crossing her pale face. "At Roy's funeral. I remember."

He desperately wanted to ask her what else she remembered, but at that moment, Jim awoke as well.


"Hey, Dad."

Castle stepped back to give the older man space next to his daughter, but he kept hold of her hand. Looking up, he watched as Josh, who had woken at Jim's cry, stood and checked the monitors before leaning down to say hello to his girlfriend. When the doctor straightened up, Castle turned to watch Jim. The man was stroking his daughter's forehead, petting her almost, while she looked up at him adoringly.

"We'll give you a few minutes," Castle said quietly, squeezing her hand once more before heading for the door with a quick glance behind to make sure Josh was following.

The two younger men closed the door behind them, Castle leaning on the wall next to the door, and Josh taking an almost identical position on the opposite wall.

"Her doctor came by a little bit ago," Castle said. "Dr. Andrews."

"He's an excellent physician," Josh replied. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather have taking care of her."

"He said she'd probably have about six months of recovery time."

Josh grimaced.

"She won't like that."

"I know," Castle sighed. "I asked him if there were ways to shorten it, and he said yes, maybe to three or four months, but that her insurance probably wouldn't cover those treatments."

The young doctor ran a frustrated hand through his shaggy black locks.

"Yeah, in my experience, the insurance cops and firefighters have is not extensive."

Castle debated the wisdom of his next words, but knew the truth would out at some point anyway and it might as well be now.

"I want to help her, financially, I mean."

To his credit, Josh reacted with nothing more than a nod.

"Maybe it's not my place, but she's my friend, and if there's anything I can do to make this easier and shorter for her, I want to do it."

"I understand," the doctor said with a shrug. "Good luck getting her to let you do it though."

The writer let out a mirthless chuckle.

"She is an independent one, isn't she?" he asked rhetorically. "Her dad and I get along, so I'm hoping maybe he can help me convince her."

They fell into silence, the two men on opposing walls, each lost in their own thoughts for a long while. Finally the door opened, and there was Jim Beckett, looking weary but very happy for the first time since Castle had met him a few days before.

"Josh, she'd like to see you," the older man said quietly, and Castle felt a pang of hurt rip through him.

The doctor nodded his assent and pushed himself away from the wall, passing through the door Jim still held open. The older man took up the previously occupied space against the wall, studying the writer across from him.

Finally, Castle broke the silence.

"How is she?"

"Tired, hurting, but glad to be alive, happy to see us all there." He paused. "She told me what you did."

"What do you mean?"

"That you tried to talk her out of pursuing this until she kicked you out of her apartment. She didn't mean what she said, by the way, that you were over."

"I know."

"She said she couldn't tell me exactly what happened, but that you saved her life again."

Castle said nothing, his mind going back to that night at the hangar and how desperate he'd been to get her out of there before they killed her.

"Rick," Jim said quietly, pulling the author back to the present. "Thank you for my little girl."

Castle allowed the sincerity to shine through as he met the other man's eyes.

"If there's anything I can do to keep her safe and alive and healthy, you need to know that I'll do it. Always. You have my word."

Jim nodded.

"I know you will."

"Speaking of helping her, sir," Castle began. "I woke up when her doctor was there this morning. He says she's looking at six months of recovery."

"Six months, wow," Jim said, letting out a low whistle.

"But there are treatments and therapy that may help her knock it down to three or four."

"But?" Jim asked.

"But the doctor didn't think her insurance would cover it," Castle sighed. "And if it doesn't, I want to help her."

His partner's father just raised an eyebrow, signalling that he should continue.

"I had plenty of money from Derrick Storm and my other writing, but the Heat books have only increased that amount. I owe that to your daughter. And aside from coffee and the occasional dinner at the precinct, she won't accept my help."

"I know what you mean, son," Jim said with a tired smile. "She doesn't like taking my help either. But I'll do what I can to help her see the wisdom of your ways."

Castle smiled.

"Thank you."

They had been standing there for quite a while, Castle realized, and he hoped Kate was okay. But considering that a doctor was in the room with her and no others had come running, he assumed that she was fine, just wanting to spend a little time alone with her boyfriend.

The door opened, drawing him from his thoughts as Josh stepped out and placed a firm hand on the writer's shoulder.

"I have to go," the doctor said, and Castle thought something sounded off in his voice.

"Oh, okay," he said, a little surprised. "Work?"

Josh shook his head and gave the other man a small, sad smile.

"No, just...just take care of her, okay?"

"Yeah, of course," the writer answered, still trying to figure out exactly what was going on.

"Good," the doctor said, releasing Castle's shoulder to shake Jim's hand.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Beckett. You raised quite a woman."

Jim nodded silently, and Josh took off down the hall, his shoulders a little slumped, the writer thought. He was a few feet away when he looked back at the blue-eyed man who was watching him intently.



"She's all yours."

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