Disclaimer: Gotten it not.
Spoilers: 2x12 "A Rose for Everafter".
Setting: Early Season 5, before 5x05 "Probable Cause".
The Ones That Comprise Tenses
"Do you think Kyra was your One?"
The man Kate has posed the question to freezes before his stove, his spatula held in mid-air as he ignores the rapidly heating pan that sits over the fire. "What?" he asks her, clearly caught off-guard.
Kate doesn't blame him, really. They've just had a relaxing weekend afternoon, the first half of which they've spent side-by-side watching inane daytime soap and the second half of which they've dedicated solely to certain bedroom activities that they haven't gotten bored of yet, only to emerge now so that he can cook them both dinner.
It's been a peaceful day. It's been a domestic one; a comfortable one.
She really doesn't know where her thought comes from, except that she had been watching him cook dinner when the realization that she couldreturn home to this for the rest of her life suddenly flittered across her mind—
And then intrudes the memory of a young, fresh-faced, beautiful brunette who's a little softer around the edges and easier on the heart than Kate herself will ever be. Kate's not stupid. She knows that Kyra's married and that Castle would never be with a married woman.
But it doesn't change the fact he loves—loved? But merely three years ago and more than a decade after they had broken up, he still looked at her with complete adoration—Kyra very much. It doesn't change the fact that there have been two women after Kyra, neither of which has been able to compete with the legacy she had left behind, and that Kate doesn't know how to compete when they haven't been able to.
But she licks her lips and repeats numbly, "Do you think Kyra was your One?" because, well, preparation for heartbreak is always a good thing. He still looks nonplussed, so she elaborates, "I don't know if you remember this, but back when—y'know, back when I first met Kyra, you said she was the One That Got Away."
"I don't remember that," he answers slowly, "but I'll take your word for it. It sounds like something I would say."
Oh, it stings; it does. "So, she is your One."
"My one what?" he presses, confused and starting to sound a little impatient, and she twists her lips.
"You know, your One."
But he's still looking at her with his Kate, what's this all about? expression, his eyes drilling holes into hers, and she isn't sure how to explain to him that it hurts to know she isn't quite going to have the same standing in his heart as he already has in hers, so she shrugs and drops the topic.
"Your eggs are burning," she simply tells him, and he yelps and hastens to rescue the charring food.
If her smile as she watches him try to fix the irreparable damage is a bit lacklustre, he doesn't notice at all.
He gets it in the middle of the night.
Well, not quite the middle of the night. They've just finished with their round of nightly festivities—it's new, their relationship; falling asleep without being absolutely sated with each other sounds impossible just yet—and she's lying there, already fading away on the brink of sleep, when his head pops up like a jackrabbit's beside her and startles her back into wakefulness.
"Oh, Kate," he breathes, clear blue eyes bearing into hers for a moment before he buries his face back into his pillow and mumbles, "… The hell."
Kate frowns. That isn't usually the desired response to sex. It wasn't that bad, was it?
"Kate," he sighs again, lifting his head—and in that moment, she remembers the dinner conversation and realizes that he's put two and two together, and she hates him a little bit for it. Not yet, Castle. Not so soon. I'm not ready for this conversation yet. "You're not Kyra."
Her frown deepens. (Maybe wavers a little, but she's not going to mention that.)
"No, that's not what I meant," he amends. "I mean, Kyra's not you—"
She presses a quick but gentle finger to his lips and shushes him softly. "I know." She does. She does. "I understand; I really do." Even if her throat clogs up at the words.
He cocks his head and looks questioningly at her as if he doubts the validity of her understanding. "Do you?"
She swallows hard and steels herself. "Yeah. I mean … we all have that one person who changes our lives irrevocably; makes us want to be stronger, better. I—I like the man that Kyra made you."
The smile he shoots her, half-teasing and half-adoring, makes her vision blur a little. "You didn't know me before Kyra," he accuses her gently.
She shrugs. "I don't really need to. I saw you with her, and—Wow, Castle. You were … captivating. You were so—so different."
"'Different,'" he parrots.
"Yeah," she states wistfully. "Grown-up. Mature. Responsible. She must have taught you a lot about being in a relationship, huh?"
He chuckles, his left palm dragging down the length of her right arm so that he can interlace his fingers with hers. "So have you," he tells her.
Kate feels her cheeks grow warm at that. "I like to think that I play my part."
His eyes flash with amusement. "You don't get it, do you?" he asks. Her heart twists a little.
"I think," he tells her, his gaze steady upon hers, "that the One That Got Away is different from the One."
"Oh?" she asks casually. He's can't be saying—he can't. She can't get her hopes up. It doesn't make sense—She's not the type of person whom people fall in love with and stay in love with.
A corner of his lips quirks into a smile, and she thinks she must fail at keeping her pinging thoughts off her face. "Kyra's the One That Got Away," he continues, more softly now. "That, I can say with certainty. But I loved her in the past tense. Now, I'm thinking that the One That Stays can't be a past tense."
"No," she agrees, her heart thumping. "I guess not."
His smile only grows. "I love you, Kate. Present tense. Future tense."
"You will love me?" she murmurs in awe, because it's one thing to hope and another thing altogether to have it confirmed.
"Yeah." He's beaming now. "I will love you—will continue to love you, if you let me. So much so that I'm already picturing … things, in a future with you, that would scare you if I were to tell you about them now because … there are so many. But I want you to know that when I do start making things a reality, Kate, there won't be a single fibre of my soul that won't be begging you to jump into it with me."
She laughs a little at that. Breathlessly; with relief and a lot of surprise—very much overwhelmed in the best way possible. "Oh, God. I love you too, you know."
His eyes twinkle. "I know."
"And I don't doubt you—"
"You so did, too," he interrupts with fond chiding. "Were you honestly just gonna let things go if I hadn't figured it out?"
"It's not like I could just bring it up," she protests, sobering. "You —you waited for me. You fought for me. You stood by me. And I thought … that loving you a little more than you could love me was a small price to pay when you had already done so much for me with what you felt. I could deal with—"
"Kate, Kate, Kate." He shakes his head. "Never settle. Never settle for a man who loves you less than you love him, because he's gonna get complacent with the fact that he can get away with very little. But," he continues, disentangling their fingers only so that he can entwine them in her hair and caress her face with a thumb, "I can guarantee you that I don't love you any less than you love me, because even after five years and multiple arguments and a near-death experience or two, or three, or ten … my only wish is still that I could give you the world."
She huffs at that; swats at him lightly to mask the warmth bubbling up effervescently in her chest. God, she loves him so much. "Sap."
He grins; catches on to her need for levity. "You know it," he replies lightly, waggling his eyebrows. "Also: You want the moon? You got that too. I've got property on it."
She rolls her eyes. "Now you're just showing off."
"I'm entitled to! C'mon; what else, if not that, demonstrates my ability to provide for you?"
"Oh." Her mouth drops open in scandalized shock."Oh, tell me you did not just imply that I'm unable to provide for myself."
"No," he backtracks in panic, "that's not what—ow, ow, apples! Okay!"
And she laughs as she lets him go, but he looks genuinely sorry, so she hooks a forgiving ankle around his lower thigh and rolls them over onto his back. There, sprawled atop his chest with her nose barely an inch his, she shoots him the most brilliant smile she can possibly muster.
"Rick," she breathes. "I will love you, too. So very, very much."
His answering smile, crawling slowly up his cheekbones to curl around the crow's feet patterning the edges of his eyes, lights his whole face up.
"I'll be counting on it," he promises, "forever."
A/N: So here's my dilemma - I'm only up to the episode before the Hunt/Target arc, but the summaries for tag fics to the latest episode have been looking so tempting. I can't quite decide whether to skip all those episodes in favour of watching the Belly of the Beast... *gets distracted by something shiny* *wanders off*