Disclaimer: Meep. Too poor.
Spoilers: 4x23 "Always". Minor 4x01 "Rise".
Warnings: Mention of suicidal ideation. No actual attempts, but I thought it might be prudent to warn all the same.
Setting: "Always", minus its end-scene end scene. A universe where, instead of welcoming Kate with almost-literally open arms, Castle rejects her advances instead (not that I didn't love what we were given ehehehe). It's angsty, but things do work out, I promise.
Past the Wall
He found her on the rooftop of his apartment building, sitting so close to the edge that his heart lurched painfully with fear at the sight. She sat facing the ledge that ran around the perimeter; knees tucked up to her chest, toes pressed against the raised edge, arms wrapped around her thighs.
"You gonna jump?" he shouted at her through the rain.
She turned her face towards his, so slowly that at first he worried she had misinterpreted his words as a challenge. And then, a smirk glimmered on ivory skin, and his heart unclenched—whatever was going through her mind, she was not as close to breaking as he had initially thought.
"Like I would ever jump over a man," she mocked him.
It hurt to have her reduce him to merely 'a man'—he could not lie. But, "I guess I deserved that," he said, shuffling up to her so that he could sit beside her. Hips touching, shoulders brushing; faces and fingers and ankles, as far away from each other's as possible. "I would die for you, y'know," he could not help saying.
"Not like that," she pointed out, and she was right. She sighed. "It doesn't matter now, anyway."
He supposed it did not.
He wondered if she wondered how he had known where she would be hiding out. She did not seem surprised that he had found her on his rooftop even after he had pushed away her advances—perhaps, in hindsight, she did know he would always go after her.
"You promised you would be there," she accused after a painful beat. He scoffed to cover up the twinge in his heart.
"You're one to talk."
"I didn't break any promise, Castle."
"Yeah, so I wouldn't have to break a promise to you." She finally turned to look at him. "What would you have had me say? 'I know you love me; I love you too, so let's get together'? That would have been a broken promise."
"So, you don't love me?" he dared to ask. Her face remained blank.
"If we had gotten together then, we would have crashed and burned," she said instead. "I couldn't let you have half of me, so I let you have none of me."
"We've crashed and burned now, anyway."
"Yeah, but not because of my lie." She stayed quiet for a moment. "You want me to say it, don't you?"
"That I am in over my head with my mother's case." Her green eyes bore into his. "Because I am. I know that."
It made him shudder—the emotionless presentation of her statement. Her matter-of-factness. As if she knew what trouble she was going to get into with the entire mess, and she would welcome it with open arms.
Except: Maddox had gotten away, and she did not care. She wanted Rick instead, and he had pushed her away when she had shown up on his figurative doorstep just half an hour earlier because he was still too angry, too stubborn to see that she was trying to let go of her hang-ups for him.
"He pushed me off a roof much like this one," she added, as if she had read where his thoughts lay. He suppressed another shudder. "I hung on with one hand when I heard your voice."
"I'm … glad you didn't die."
"You want the truth, Castle?" She stared at him. "The truth is that if I could have taken him off that roof by diving at him then and there, I would have done it."
He suspected. Even if he did not want to admit to it.
"I thought the time had come and past for me to think my life mattered more than my mother's." She sounded so earnest, it scared him. "There was a time even further back when I tried—with Will, with my job, but things changed when Raglan showed up—so did Coonan and Lockwood—and we learnt what we did about Montgomery, and it all culminated in me getting shot. All of this has shown me that this thing is too important to let go of."
"Then, why did you come here?"
"Because I wanted to be selfish, for once. I-I wanted…"
"Oh, Kate," he sighed when she tapered off.
"My mother—she was such a beautiful woman. She was strong and tough and independent; everything I wanted to be. She had principles to live up to and aspirations to realize. She wanted to save the world and taught me to want to save the world at the same time.
"And now, I can't do that anymore. I can't look up to her and want to be her anymore. On some days, that makes it hard for me to see how it is sensible that someone so beautiful is dead and I am not."
He swallowed. His throat was dry. His chest was empty.
"And I'm not saying that I want to be dead," she added, "but if I died in the course of finding justice for my mother, maybe that was my plan all along. Maybe I mean to take out the enemy no matter the cost."
"Kate," he choked out.
"I have never had anyone love me the way you do," she continued, bluntly. She inclined her head towards his, and the shine in her eyes and the quiver on her lips—unattributed to the rain—twisted his heart viciously. "You made me want to see if it was worth it, staying alive in the course of solving my mother's case; just for a chance at loving and being loved the way my parents did each other. But the thing is: If that wall came down and there was nothing waiting for me on the other side, nothing to save me from falling over the edge, I don't know what I'm going to do. I have nothing left to live for."
Her shoulders shook at long last, breaking under the weight they carried; her whole body trembled even as he pulled her to him. He shushed her gently to no avail. The dam had collapsed, and she would not be able to stop her rush of tears until all of her pain had been washed away.
The storm was already dying down by the time she stopped crying.
She lay mute and still in his arms, her breathing even save for the occasional sniffle. Her fingers stroked constantly across the fabric covering his knees, over and over in erratic circles as if the motion gave her comfort. His skin tingled.
"You know," he broke the silence with a murmur, "there are ways to honour your mother other than dying for her."
Kate opened her mouth as if to protest.
"No, hear me out," he hastened to say. She closed her mouth. "If you died for her—if you died for her, Kate, you would forever be known as the woman who threw her life away over her dead mother."
She jerked away from him, her face aghast. He felt a pang for hurting her that way, but pushed on.
"And Johanna Beckett would forever be known as the woman her daughter died for." He held up a hand when Kate opened her mouth again. "Not a lawyer. Not a model citizen. Not an inspiration for her daughter. Not a hero. I know you don't want to hear that—" he licked his lips, "—but death changes perception. It's true. You know that. People immediately become saints or the World's Worst. And I don't want that for you—I don't want you to become the World's Worst. I don't want people to shake their heads and go, 'It's so tragic. She could have been something.'"
Horror, denial, understanding, misery, fear; all crossed his partner's face in equal measure. "Castle?" she whispered, her voice small and terrified, as if she were picturing the moment when everyone had who loved her in life turned on her in death. He felt sick.
But he had to say it. It was true, and she needed to know it was true.
"Your mother left behind a good legacy," he told her, "and a lot of that rests in your heart. If your heart stops beating, that legacy is gone."
She blinked furiously.
"Do you think … maybe you could remember a life with your mother, instead?"
Her expression warped even as she opened her mouth, and for a long moment, he held his breath, worried she would break down again—but she just closed her mouth and put her mask of bravery back on.
"Like the Johanna Beckett Scholarship Fund?" she asked, her voice hoarse and so childlike in its innocence that an unforgiving lump formed in his throat.
"Yeah," he agreed, "like that."
"What if it's not enough?"
"It will be," he said firmly. "S'long as you remember the person she was, so will others."
"Castle," she mumbled again, irrelevantly but in so scared a voice that he could not help but to wrap his arms around her again. She clutched tightly to him, her chest heaving; her eyes darted about frantically, and he knew she was processing his words. "I don't want to forget her legacy."
"Then don't," he said quietly. She whimpered and buried her face into his neck, and guilt wrenched his gut. She was on the verge of another panic attack, he knew. He was not quite sure why, but he was certain he had put her at that place. Bile rose in his throat.
And then she was scrabbling into his lap, and it was so unlike her that he reeled and almost pushed her away before he remembered to hold on tightly.
"Would you be with me?" she choked out, her voice breaking in all the wrong places.
He swallowed. "Always," he promised, and her exhale was pain mixed with uncertainty interlaced with relief.
"I don't want your opinion of m—your opinion of h-her to change…"
"I will never stop looking up to you," he was quick to assure her. "Never, Kate. I wasn't talking about me. Not me."
She nodded feverishly. "But how can I just let go of her case?"
"I'm not asking you to let go of her case. I'm just saying to let other things take precedence—things that have to do with the kind of life she led. Things that made you look up to her."
Kate huffed against his skin.
And then, just like that, her panic disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. She calmed against him, relaxing the fingers that had wrung hard around his shirt but making no move to get off him. "Okay," she whispered.
He stroked her back reflexively, confused but glad. "Okay."
He waited her out.
"Do you think," she started timidly, tentatively, "you could—you could help me find a way to honour her?"
"Of course," he replied immediately. "You wouldn't know it, Beckett, but I am the master of game plans."
She laughed, her breath stilted in a way that suggested she was trying not to be amused by him. And Beckett was back, he realized that way.
She had found her footing again.
Clambering off his lap and settling down beside him, she threw an awkward and self-conscious apology in his direction; he chuckled and nudged a sporting elbow into her side in lieu of verbal acknowledgement. Peace finally brokered, they sat together, watching the rain taper off into clear air. Only then did he stand up and offer his hand to her.
"C'mon. Let's get off here before we catch pneumonia," he told her. "Ooh, that rhymed!"
She smiled shyly in return and took his hand, pulling herself up into a standing position. And as he turned and led them towards the stairwell, she spoke up.
"Yeah?" he asked over his shoulder.
"I do, you know. A-a lot."
Her words were simultaneously clear and ambiguous.
They made him smile.
A/N: I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed my previous fic :P I'm a little slow in getting through them, but I will be replying to them one by one (if you signed in to review), I promise. Thank you so much for your support! I hope you continue to read and enjoy my fics.