This is a pre-episode musing for 6x14 Dressed to Kill and DOES contain spoilers.
For those of you following PoP, don't worry, I haven't abandoned it. I'm just in a fight with Chapter 6 and needed a little break. xx
Matilda King. Kate's face paled slightly when she realized her past and her present were about to collide in a way she was not at all prepared for. The last time she saw Matilda King she'd been an inexperienced, naïve seventeen year old girl thinking she could make it in the modeling world.
She'd arrived for her first meeting with Ms King and the woman just wouldn't stop raving about Kate's cheekbones. Her hair was a mess, her nose too pointy, breasts too small, but the cheekbones were perfect. Actually, with the way she'd latched on to the facial feature, it was if they were laced with gold. Kate had never really considered her cheekbones to be anything spectacular but here was this no-nonsense fashion mogul going on and on about their perfection.
The summer she'd spent modeling had been an eye opener, that's for sure. She'd been thrust in front of camera after camera told to stand here, put her arm there, point her face that way and very quickly it had become overwhelming. But being the stubborn, head-strong Katie Beckett that she was, there was no way she could have gone to her mother and told her she wanted to quit. Hearing 'I told you so' would have been so much worse than anything the photographers and editors could have throw at her.
So she'd stuck it out for the entire summer. Ignored everyone's critiques of her face and body, ignored the airbrushed final images; anything just to make sure she could collect her paycheck when the time came and prove to her mother that she could do it. When school started again in the fall, she had walked away from modeling and Matilda King with a newfound understanding of her own personal strengths and an appreciation for her sharp cheekbones. And she'd never looked back.
Now, twenty years later, she was going to meet Matilda King again. Kate looked over at Castle. He was standing in front of the murder board with Ryan and Esposito, his little boy excitement over delving into the modeling world transforming his features. His eyes were bright, his grin crooked but infectious, and that flop of hair fell down across his forehead when he laughed. Her fingers itched to be buried in his soft hair, to sweep that section back so she could see straight into his eyes and she had to stretch and flex her hand to release the building tension.
She hadn't told Castle about her modeling past and she long ago threatened the boys with bodily harm if they ever did breathe a word about it. Hopefully with a bit of luck she could avoid sharing it with him today. Surely, there was no way Matilda would remember her after all this time. At least she hoped that was the case.
"Castle." He jumped at the sound of her voice. She watched his body turn and his eyes focus on her, showing her such an innocent joy that she almost forgot what she was going to say. She cleared her throat before speaking and then glared when his grin turned smug. He knew what power he held over her. "Road trip. Let's go."
Modern Fashion Magazine's headquarters were located on the fifty-fourth floor of the Chrysler Building in Midtown. The offices were contemporary and clean but still highly functional, the picture of productivity. Beckett led Castle to the front desk, taking in the rapidly moving employees orbiting around each other like a well-oiled machine. No doubt that was Matilda's influence. At least some things never changed.
She flashed her badge at the young woman behind the desk, watching as she juggled three ringing phones and a stack of messages. "Detective Kate Beckett, NYPD. I'm here to see Matilda King."
The woman's face flushed and her eyes went wide as though startled by Beckett's words. "Uh yes Miss Beck – uh Detective. I'll – just give me a moment and I'll let her know you're – oh, God. Here she comes." Her face paled when she saw Matilda King push through a set of double doors at one end of the large room.
Beckett peeked around Castle's shoulder as the older woman approached but then stalled slightly as she noticed the pair at the counter. It was impossible to know for sure due to her sunglasses, but Kate felt as though Matilda's eyes were boring right into her skull and suddenly she was fifteen again, being scrutinized by this woman who was only ever looking for her faults.
"I would recognize those cheekbones anywhere. Katie Beckett, get over here so I can look at you properly," she said as she dumped her oversized bag on the receptionist's desk.
Kate winced as Castle turned to look at her, surprise written all over his face. She shook her head slightly, hoping he would leave the questions for later, and stepping around him, she stuck her hand out. "Hello, Ms King. It's lovely to see you –"
"You sure have blossomed, Katie." Matilda interrupted as she grasped both Kate's hands to spread them wide, looking her up and down, appraising her as she'd done so many times before. "Spin for me."
She could feel Castle's gaze on her as she spun in a small circle, the way she had been taught years ago. Halfway through though, she sneaked a glance at his face and was startled by what she saw there. His mouth was hanging open in surprise, of course, but there was so much undisguised awe written into the lines around his eyes. She knew he thought her beautiful, but this was so much more and she flushed under his continued appreciation.
"I always knew you had it in you. If only you'd stuck around so I could help you realize it. What are you doing here anyway? I never thought I'd see you again after you walked out that day and never came back."
"Yeah. I'm sorry about that. It just wasn't what I needed at the time." Kate felt Castle reach for her right hip, a plea to understand what was going on, but before he could say anything she reached back and squeezed his fingers lightly while pushing them away from her body. "I'm an NYPD detective now." She moved sideways, standing next to him, "And this is Richard Castle. Do you have somewhere we could talk privately?"
"So a detective, huh? How did that happen?" Matilda asked as she sat in her desk chair. Her smooth voice only served to increase Kate's anxiety. It was just a matter of time before the older woman made her disapproval known.
"Yes. It was a calling. Something I couldn't ignore," she answered as they sat in chairs opposite the desk; keeping it vague in the hopes that they could move on to the reason for their visit as quickly as possible.
"I'm sorry. How do you two know each other?"
But apparently Castle had other ideas.
Matilda faced him, her expression pensive, as though she were just noticing him for the first time. "Katie did a summer program for me when she was younger." Beckett felt her body cave slightly as Matilda turned her focus to her once more, each word slicing a little deeper as the older woman revealed her bitterness. "Such potential until the day she walked out on me. After everything I taught her. After all the work I'd put into making her the best."
Kate caught Castle's gaze, hoping to quell his curiosity. At least for now. "It was a long time ago and we're not here to talk about me."
"Well then why are you here?"
"Your assistant, Ella Hayes, was found murdered early this morning."
"Oh, that's terrible. I was wondering why she wasn't answering my calls. I even planned on firing her for her irresponsibility when I finally did get a hold of her." She paused, looking away from them in a moment of quiet contemplation. "Guess I don't have to worry about it now. What happened?"
"That's what we're trying to figure out. What can you tell me about her?"
"She was good. Reliable. Ella did everything I asked from day one, never complained, never dropped the ball. She was rare in this business, let me tell you. Replacing her will be a nightmare."
"Do you know of anyone that would want to hurt her?"
"I really don't know much about her personal life but she seemed to get along with everyone here. I never noticed any negative relationships."
"Was she particularly close with any other staff members?" Beckett questioned.
"You know I'm really not sure. Like I said, I didn't know much about her personal life. She was very professional. Came in, did her job, and left. You might ask our receptionist, Jessica. I did see them talking from time to time."
"Thank you, Ms King. I'll be sure to do that." Beckett stood to leave, signaling the end of the interview, and Matilda followed. Castle trailed them both, apparently still buzzing with the new knowledge of Beckett's modeling days. She knew he was just biding his time before he could drag the story out of her.
Beckett stopped outside the office door, handing one of her cards to Matilda, "If you think of anything else please give me a call." In her peripheral vision, she briefly noticed Castle continuing into the busy hallway, leaving them to talk in private.
"I will." Matilda reached out for a handshake and didn't let go before saying, "What happened back then, Katie?"
So much for getting out of here without discussing her past.
"Ms King, I really appreciate everything you did for me that summer but –"
"Hey, Beckett! Wedding dresses." She turned to see Castle standing next to a rack overflowing with white and ivory fabric. He was looking at her, eyes filled with happiness at the unexpected surprise. "You should look. See if there's anything you like."
"Castle!" She cut her eyes to Matilda, embarrassed that he was bringing their personal life up now.
"Are you engaged?"
Kate felt her cheeks redden but Castle cut in to answer Matilda before she could. "Yes, we are. The wedding is in September."
"You're engaged to each other?" Matilda's eyebrows shot up with genuine surprise as Kate nodded slightly. "Really? Congratulations, Katie."
"Thank you." Kate glared at Castle and was pleased to see his slight wince. He would definitely be paying for this later and he knew it.
"And you don't have a dress?"
"No, I haven't had a chance to shop for one yet." Truthfully, buying a dress had been the one part of planning the wedding that she'd been tactfully avoiding. She just hadn't been able to push past the pain of shopping without her mother even though Lanie, Martha, and Alexis had been begging to take her.
"You're more than welcome to come down to the studio. I'll pull some samples for you to try if you'd like."
Kate looked at the rack, and then back to Castle's face. He had pressed his lips together to keep quiet but she could see the excitement dancing in his eyes, how badly he wanted her to say yes. He wanted this for her, wanted her to have whatever dress she desired and the wedding she had always envisioned.
"I wouldn't want to impose –"
"Oh, nonsense. Come by in a couple of days. We'll see if we can't find you something."
Maybe shopping on her own would make the experience a little bit easier. No one would be there to fuss over her the way she wanted her mother to and no one would see her struggle to keep her emotions in check. She looked back over at Castle, let his hopeful expression bolster her confidence and allow a small smile to appear on her face. "Alright. Let's do it."
Kate stood in her underwear starting at the dress hanging on the wall. It was terrible. Was this the definition of high fashion these days? If so, she decided she had get out of here as soon as possible and find a dress boutique with simpler, more normal dresses. She fingered the weird skirt thing and wrinkled her nose in disgust.
"Kate, are you doing okay? Need help zipping it up?"
Matilda's voice pulled her out of her head and kicked her into gear. "No, I'm good. I'll be out in a minute." She took the dress off the hanger and stepped into it. The silver, beaded fabric was fitted over her entire body – arms, torso, hips, and thighs – in the most uncomfortable way. She could barely move her legs to walk or lift her arms above her shoulders. In addition to that, the beading was so intricate she was afraid to do anything lest a part of it catch and get ruined. Yes, there was no way she would be wearing this dress or anything like it on her wedding day.
She took tiny steps as she pushed aside the curtain blocking her while she changed and walked out into the studio toward the mirrors. Matilda's face lit up and she clapped her hands just once, leaving them clasped next to her chest. "Oh, darling, you look so beautiful."
And it hit her all over again. That Matilda was the woman standing in front of her and not the woman she so desperately wanted to be here, to be a part of this experience. Oh, she missed her Mom.
Kate looked at her reflection, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, body draped in silver fabric. It's not the white dress she had always envisioned but it's still a wedding dress. It was still her wedding that she was planning. Her wedding to the love of her life.
"So? What do you think? I think it's perfect for you!" Matilda gushed as she circled the pedestal Kate stood on. "You're having a big wedding right? Marrying a multi-millionaire means a big venue, big guest list, the press. The best of everything for the event of the year."
Kate listened to Matilda ramble about how her wedding should be considering whom she was marrying, but the more she said how big things should be, the more Kate realized that was the exact opposite of what she wanted. Sure Castle was famous – well semi-famous – but if there was one thing she'd learned over the past five years it was that his money didn't define him. They didn't have to have a big, press-filled wedding just because that was what people expected and what he'd done in the past.
But something low-key, intimate, and out of the way? Now that was more her style. Close friends and family, delicious food, great music, and her sexy fiancé would do her just fine. Maybe something on the beach, up in the Hamptons. That would make keeping the press away relatively easy and then after the wedding was over they could release a photo from the event as an announcement in the paper to appease the vultures.
She jumped, realizing she needed to stop staring at herself and actually answer Matilda's questions.
"Um, yeah it's really – intricate. And detailed."
"I know! All the beading was hand-stitched and worth every penny."
"Yeah, it's definitely quality work but I'm – "
"Ms. King, you have a phone call." A young, fresh-faced staffer interrupted them and Kate silently thanked the young woman for drawing Matilda's attention elsewhere.
"Oh, okay. I'll be right back, Kate."
Kate watched her walk away and then turned back to the mirror taking in every inch of her reflection. Despite the hideous dress, her eyes were sparkling, a result of the giddy pleasure she was having a hard time containing. She was marrying Richard Castle, her favorite author and best friend, in eight months. Just eight short months and that fact alone made her heart speed up and butterflies erupt.
Her eyes traveled down to the neckline of the dress and that's when she saw it. The dress was cut just low enough to show the puckered circle between her breasts, the scar that served as a constant reminder to how close she had come to never having this moment, never knowing what being with Castle could feel like.
The press of hot tears appeared in her eyes and a lump formed in her throat as the possible reality of never experiencing this life hit her like a freight train. Then, the weight pressed further as she remembered once more that she would be doing this without the one woman who was supposed to be here for every monumental occasion of her life. She couldn't stop the twin tears that fell from her eyes as the hole left by her mother's murder burned fierce in her chest.
Her cell phone ringing broke her out of her thoughts. She hurriedly wiped her cheeks dry and took a deep breath as she rushed over to her bag. A soft grin lifted the corners of her lips when she saw the smiling face looking back at her from the screen. He had impeccable timing, as always.
"Hey, Castle." She knew he would hear it in her voice, hear the sadness that was threatening to overwhelm her, but she didn't have the will to hide from him anymore. He never failed to catch her when she was falling and she knew he wouldn't start now.
"Hey, how's it going?" His gentle voice was like a soothing balm rubbed over the jagged edges of her heart, smoothing them until they didn't hurt so much.
"It's good. Matilda is as overbearing as I remember and I'm wearing the most hideous dress but it's still good. I just wish –" She paused, not able to speak the words but knowing he would hear them anyway.
"I know you do. I wish she were there, too. I wish she could see all of this. You, me, us. She'd be so proud of you, Kate."
More tears silently fell from her eyes at his quiet, knowing words. "Castle."
"It's okay to miss her and you can come home if it's too much today. I'll get your favorites from Mr. Chang's and have a hot bath waiting. I'll do whatever you need."
"No, Castle. You're doing it right now. I don't need the other stuff. Just you." She closed her eyes and let his unending love wash over her, building back her strength and balance. Her eyes opened again when she heard Matilda's voice. "I'll be done here in an hour of two."
"Yeah, babe. I'm good, I promise."
"Okay. Just call me if you find something you love."
She laughed and said, "I highly doubt I will. These dresses are all too much for me, but at least now I know what I don't want."
"Always a silver lining." His smile filtered through the phone giving her the extra bit of light she needed to get back at it. "Love you, Kate. I'll see you in a bit."
"You, too." She ended the call feeling lighter, freer, and ready to focus on the possibilities of her future instead of the pain of her past.
Her mother may not be here to share in her wedding day, her body may be covered in scars that serve as reminders of her own mortality, but her heart was filled with hope. Hope that reminded her of all the amazing things yet to come. Things she had never dared wish for.
A life filled with love. A family of her own.
And the man of her dreams.