She still misses him.

She should have expected this, but she didn't.

She didn't expect those first few minutes, those first few hours of relief, of joy, of everything's going to be okay to turn into this.

He only holds Nathaniel that first time for a few minutes before he starts sweating, the exertion on his long neglected muscles too much. That look, the look he gives her then when she slides her hands under the boy and lifts him away - she hates that look: frustration, longing, hurt.

Dr. Bodie comes back as Alexis is leaving, explains their next steps.

He'll be assessed, and assuming he's well enough, they'll move him from the long-term care facility to a rehab center as soon as possible. He'll be there for at least a month.

Castle balks, of course. Dr. Bodie tells him to get out of bed. He can't.

Kate almost cries.

Instead, she sits next to him on the bed, her fingers stroking the back of his head as the doctor explains their options. Castle falls asleep before they make any decisions.

She's terrified he won't wake up again.

He does.

Gates agrees to let her take two weeks off work to stay with him.

She ends up taking three days, long enough to watch her husband freak out over the feeding tube and the hole just below his ribcage, long enough to stay with him while the doctors put him through a series of trials designed to test his physical abilities, his cognition, his motivation.

Long enough to hover breathlessly as an orderly helps him into a wheelchair.

Helps him might not be the right phrase, actually. The man lifts him like a sack of potatoes and sets him in the wheelchair.

She's there long enough to see the man who beat up an assassin, the man who broke down the door of her burning apartment, the man who saved them from drowning in the Hudson - she's there long enough to watch as the strongest man she knows crumples when he tries, and tries again, and then discovers he can't push himself forward even a foot.

She's there, kneeling at his side, brushing the hair off his forehead, squeezing his knee, promising that they'll get there.

And then he sends her away.

She does cry this time, though she waits until she's out in the hall, away from that expression on Castle's face, the one that tells her how much he hates this, hates being so weak, hates her seeing him so weak.

Alexis, finished with finals, is the one who stays with him when they transfer him to the Rusk Institute the next day.

Alexis is the one who comes over for dinner that night.

"He's just frustrated, Kate," the young woman assures her, stirring the macaroni and cheese that bubbles on the stove. "Dad's never been good at being an invalid."

The detective laughs mirthlessly, her hands shaking as she shreds a head of lettuce. "But he used to let me take care of him at least. He practically forced me to bring him soup and ice cream the last time he didn't feel good."

Her stepdaughter shakes her head. "Not-"

"Not what?" the older woman asks.

"He's only been sick a few times since you two got together," Alexis points out. "And just a cold or the flu. He broke his leg once, when I was eleven, and..."

The girl trails off and Kate abandons the salad, comes to stand next to the redhead in front of the stove.

"I went to stay with my mom for a few days," the young woman finishes. "I- I couldn't be around him at first, and he didn't want me around."

There's a darkness, a pain still in the girl's eyes, a pain that hasn't completely faded, even after ten years.

"Oh honey," she murmurs.

Alexis shakes her head. "It's just...Dad's so used to being able to do whatever he wants. He's used to taking care of everyone else."

Kate nods at that, her heart swelling as she thinks of all the ways he's taken care of her, all the cups of coffee, all the meals, all the tiny ways he met her every need in those two months after they found out she was pregnant, before everything changed.

"I know," she says quietly.

"He's just not good at being helpless," the girl finishes.

Shutting her eyes and bracing her elbows against the counter, Kate sighs, drops her head into her hands. "I don't know what to do."

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