To the anon who left a question in a review on the last chapter - part of your message got cut out. I assume it was about extraordinarylines dot com, and possibly about the Castlefans fanfic site, but I'm not sure. Message me here or on Tumblr and I'll gladly answer your question in more depth. But if you were asking what I think you were asking, the two sites use the same software: an archiving software called EFiction; the difference and a big part of the reason EL got started was to have a place that allows *all* ratings.

Her heart leaps into her throat, her body somehow reacting more quickly than her mind. She jostles Nathaniel in her haste, feels the boy struggling in her arms, hears the distant tenor of his unhappy cry. But all of it fades, her vision narrowing to the man in the hospital bed, his eyes blinking rapidly, his fingers clenching and unclenching in the thin sheets bunched around his hips.

"Castle?" "Daddy?"

Wife and daughter call out to him in unison, Kate on his left side, her fingers automatically rising to brush the hair from his forehead while Alexis hovers at his right hip, her hand covering his, stilling his his movements with her grasp.

He doesn't answer.

His eyelids flutter shut after a moment, stay that way. The detective glances at the familiar machines that measure all of his vitals. His heartrate is definitely higher than it was a few minutes ago.

Running her fingers over his forehead, through the short hair at his temple, she lets her nails rasp lightly over his scalp. "Rick, please."

She can hear the desperation in her voice, doesn't care - doesn't care if it makes her feel weak, doesn't care what Alexis thinks of her, doesn't care what the doctor says. He's in there. He's in there, and that means he can come back to her, back to his daughter, back to his son.

"Daddy, please."

Her stepdaughter's soft voice echoes the plea, and Kate looks up to find the girl with both hands wrapped around her father's forearm, her shiny blue eyes focused on his face. "Daddy, please."

A throat clears, and the detective reluctantly pulls her eyes from her husband, diverting her attention to the doctor who stands at the foot of the bed.

"These brief episodes of awareness are what we've experienced with Mr. Castle over the past few days," he says quietly. "It's common for coma patients to fade in and out."

Kate feels her heart slowing, the adrenaline spike of hearing her husband's voice beginning to recede. She nods.

"But it's a good sign?" Alexis asks. "It means he's getting better?"

Dr. Bodie nods. "It means that his prognosis is much more favorable than it was before. It means that he still has the ability to communicate."

Something like a punch in the gut hits her, leaves the detective feeling winded, and she sinks into the uncomfortable chair at his bedside. She hadn't-

She had considered that he might never wake up, had come close to resigning herself to the rest of her life without him by her side.

But she hadn't considered *that* possibility: that he might awake and not be the same, not be the man of words she had always known. Worse yet, that he might have the words and not be able to use them, that she might have to watch in frustrated anguish as he struggled to do something that had once come so easily to him.

Looking back at Alexis, she finds the girl still asking questions of the doctor, who answers them as patiently and thoroughly as he can. The information doesn't process in her mind, her brain still swirling with possibilities both good and bad.

She turns to look at Castle once again, his face pale under the harsh hospital lights, though she knows he'd be pale even in natural light.

They've hired someone to come in and work his muscles, to keep him in the best shape possible. They've made sure he gets the best care, the best nutrition. But there's nothing she or Alexis could do to keep him from losing the sun-burnished glow he always had before. She misses that tan skin.

Leaning forward, she cups his cheek in her palm, runs her thumb across his perfect lips, her index finger gliding over the strong ridge of his nose.

Closer, she needs to be closer.

Needs to give him a reason to come back to her.

She bends toward him, presses her forehead to his, breathes his air.

Her weary muscles protest her posture, but she stays there, keeps her body close to his, keeps her chest pressed against his bicep, lets him feel her heartbeat

A long moment passes, silent but for the muted conversation between Alexis and the doctor.

"Please," she murmurs. "Please, Castle."

He doesn't stir, just continues to breathe, slow and steady. But as grateful she is for even that small miracle - as thankful she is that she's sitting by his hospital bed and not kneeling next to his grave - she needs more, needs him to wake up.

Needs him.

Nathaniel struggles in her hold, the son she's almost forgotten in the past few minutes. She lifts her head, glances down in time to see Nate's face scrunched up, in time to realize that the boy with his father's looks is probably hungry or wet by now.

He jerks in her arms - he has his father's strength and determination - and twists his body. She's tired, so very tired, and her reaction time is slow, and before she knows it, she's lost her grip on him and he's falling.

She moves, but not fast enough to keep him from landing hard on his father's stomach.

He wails.

Kate barely hears him.

Because Castle lets out an 'oof' at the impact and she looks up to find that his eyes are suddenly open and focused on her.


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