A/N: This is a 'write your way out of a hole', post-ep for '47 Seconds' that's been sitting in a folder on my desktop for a little while. I have the next two chapters already written, so should be a fairly quickly completed little fic, exploring an alternative route out of their messy, miscommunication and failure to meet halfway, or anyway really, at that point in time.
The tone is vaguely inspired by the Dixie Chicks' song, 'Not Ready To Make Nice', i.e. angry, and the title and chapter headings are a direct lift of lyrics. No copyright infringement is intended.
The story picks up right after Castle leaves the precinct at the end of the episode, after Kate said 'So I guess it's just us', when she asked the boys out for a drink and they begged off, leaving only her and Castle. Only this time, after he leaves, he comes back...
'Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting'
- Dixie Chicks, 'Not Ready To Make Nice'
Chapter 1: Mad As Hell
You know, now that the case is done…what did you want to talk about?
[Beckett waits expectantly]
Nothing. Nothing important anyway. I'm gonna head home. Night.
[Beckett is confused by his distance]
[Beckett ponders Castle's attitude change as he walks to the elevator. He steps in and glares at her as the doors close.]
"I need a word with you." Castle's voice cuts through the hubbub of the bullpen even though he has it purposefully toned low.
Low and rough, scraping at his vocal cords with a touch of something dark and smoky that tugs at Kate's gut, exciting and scaring her in equal measure.
Her face visibly brightens at the sight of her partner's surprise reappearance. "You came back," she blurts unconsciously, unable to hide her pleasure. "Sure. I have some paperwork to file, but after that I'm all—"
I'm all yours.
That is what she means to say, but he cuts her off before she can get the words out. He wouldn't hear it in any case, the sentiment and the truth behind that bold or off-hand statement, whichever way you choose to look at it. He's not in the mood or the right frame of mind to pick up that hook and do anything with it tonight.
A couple of detectives and a uniform chatting in a pre-shift huddle at a nearby desk turn at the sound of Castle's voice and they stare at the partners, something invisible shifting in the air between them that captures the attention of these strangers.
Kate keeps her tone even when she replies. "Of course. What do you need?"
Castle's forceful use of her first name, the way it seems to burn on his tongue with disdain - as if disdain were some newly acquired taste sensation sitting somewhere unpleasant between sour and umami – that is what gets her attention.
She's tired. It's been a long stressful few days with the bombing and the heightened profile of the case. It felt good to get that kid in the box and push him as hard as she could today. But now that they've closed the case and found the actual bomber, her energy reserves are low.
She'd been thinking about asking Castle out for a drink tonight to celebrate, maybe blow off some steam, had been thinking about it all day before she actually asked. But he disappeared on her for several hours and she has no idea where he went, and then his unexplained mood not minutes ago...
So she's more than glad that he's back, even if he does look a little on the tense side.
Castle enters the break room, waits by the door for her, solicitous as ever, and this is all that Kate sees: Rick Castle, her partner, her friend, and the most chivalrous man she knows. She completely misses the strain in his body: the stiffer than normal posture, the gnarled wrap of his fingers around the door, knuckles blanched white because his grip is so tight. She's in a different frame of mind from him, a wholly more hopeful frame of mind. So she misses every last clue to his mood and as a result, this is how she is when he strikes – totally caught off guard.
"You lied to me."
Kate pivots to look at him, the words failing to register even now.
She smiles, raising her eyebrows brightly. "I'm sorry?"
"You're sorry. Is that it?"
She frowns, confusion crinkling her brow and marbling her eyes. "No. Wait. Castle, back up. What are you talking about?"
He gives her a minute for her brain to rewind the audio. And then he sees perfectly the second she rehears his accusation.
"Lied. Yeah. Got it now?" he asks, watching the cloud of miscomprehension clear from her irises to be replaced with cold, stark knowledge mixed together with gut-churning fear.
Kate swallows hard, her mouth parching suddenly. "I can explain." She says the words, and in her head they come out clearly. But in reality they are strangled and weak, choked upon, because she knows there is no explaining this. Not really.
"You know, I was on my way out of here tonight," Castle tells her, ignoring her offer to explain in favor of offering up a little explanation of his own. "But then I got inside that elevator out there," he adds, pointing out towards the exit, "and…and I just couldn't do it. I couldn't do it, Kate."
"Couldn't do what?"
"And do you wanna know why?"
"I—I'm sorry. Why what?" She frowns, unable to keep up all of a sudden.
They seem to be talking over one another and Castle's soliloquy is disturbing. He's talking as if he can't even hear her at all. She's been waiting for this to happen in some shape or form for a long time. Months, in fact. But she thought they were getting to a place where her lie, okay lies, would become an irrelevancy in the face of her forward momentum; of her returned feelings for him. But he's beaten her to the punch line, and now anything she says will sound hollow, a lie, bad or worse.
"Because I'm done," he tells her forcefully, getting right up in her face.
She can feel the warm puff of his breath on her lips causing her skin to prickle with pleasure despite the dire situation. "You're—?"
He shakes his head, his eyes cloudy and grey, holds his hands up in front of him as if to ward her off though she has yet to move a muscle. "Yeah. I'm done. I am done pretending, running, hiding, tiptoeing around, and making excuses for my feelings. I'm done feeling like I'm not good enough or…or that I don't measure up."
"Castle, who ever said that?" gasps Kate, her expression horrified.
"Doesn't matter. It's how you make me feel, Beckett."
Kate presses her fingertips to her forehead. Her nose touches her palm and her mouth is concealed behind the heel of her hand. Her fingers are ice cold and they burn her skin where they touch her clammy brow. She shakes her head and then removes her hand, raising her eyes to find the furious blaze of her partner's hurt, angry gaze.
"Rick…no," she whispers, still shaking her head. Panic flares in her chest as he backs away from her. "No!" she says again, more forcefully this time, moving towards him, her hand outstretched.
Castle appears on the point of leaving, and a demand, a plea, a cry of some sort forms tight as a ball in Kate's chest, threatening to explode out of her, because she has to stop him. She has to straighten him out once and for all. But he simply closes the door firmly until the latch pops into place with a resounding click and then he turns back to face her.
"Start talking," he demands, roughly pulling out a stool and indicating for her to sit.
Kate stares at his polite, yet forceful gesture. "Maybe here isn't the right place to—"
"Start. Talking." He repeats the demand a second time, his voice low and deadly, and oh God, what has she done to this kind-hearted, generous, playful man.
Kate, compliantly for her, takes the stool he has pulled out for her and sits. Castle calmly waits for her to be seated and then he takes the stool opposite. Never not a gentleman, no matter the circumstance.
Kate shakes her head, looks down at her hands clasped on the table in front of her. "I'm not sure where to… Where do you want me to start?" she asks uncertainly, looking to him for guidance.
"Wherever you want. But we're doing this tonight. We're doing this tonight and then—" Castle break off and shrugs.
"And then?" asks Kate, tilting her head to one side in an attempt to get him to meet her eyes.
"Fork in the road time," he mutters quietly, tapping the tips of his fingers against the scratched surface of the high top table with restless agitation.
"You talk and then we take whichever route is left."
*Credit to Script Line for the script excerpt at the start.