Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. I'm talking about the merchandise, by the way. It's a given that I don't own the show.
Spoilers: General bits of Castle. Since this is an AU, there's no telling when or in what form spoilers might appear, but they're generally limited to the first two seasons.
Setting: College, in a current or minimally outdated setting. It's winter and it's Stanford University, California.
I'm well-aware that I may be shooting my own self in the foot, by writing a college AU so soon into my Castle fic-writing career. This idea slammed into me with the force of a truck, though, and I hope that you give it a chance. My other AUs generally receive an okay response, so it might be better than you think?
The dropping of a backpack onto the seat next to her made her grunt with surprise; when its appearance was followed by a bustling, obnoxious presence, Katherine Beckett rolled her eyes. Only he would find her in some obscure corner of a crowded cafeteria even with her head buried in a book.
"Beckett," Rick greeted, plopping down beside her. When she purposefully failed to shift and make more space for him to sit, he nudged his elbow into her side with a whine. "Scootch!"
Reluctantly, she did. "Rodgers," she acknowledged him, slapping his hand away from the small bowl of M&Ms that sat before her book. "Why are you here?"
He gestured around the cafeteria. "There's no place to sit."
She rolled her eyes again before returning her eyes to her book. "So, you decided to bug me?"
"You're familiar," Rick explained with pseudo-patience. "I decided to bug someone familiar."
"Aren't you familiar with more people?" she asked dryly. "I'm sure with your loud presence—"
"Do not finish that sentence," he warned, before promptly dropping the topic. "Watchu reading?"
She startled at the crunch of his teeth; somehow, without her noticing, he had managed to pilfer one of her M&Ms. He smiled innocently at her glare. "Book," she answered shortly.
"Watsit about?" he asked, undeterred.
"A book about words? Does it have—"
"I'm bored," he groaned. "Talk to me."
She sighed. "Why would you look for me of all people when you know that I'm reading and you want to talk?"
"Because you're always reading," he insisted adamantly. "Besides, I don't know anyone else here. I told you that already."
"Fine." With a scowl, she slammed her book shut and shoved her book away, almost knocking her bowl of M&Ms off the table (he rescued it for her). She knew she was not going to get anymore studying done—not while he was there. "What d'you want to talk about?"
He sucked in a huge, dramatic breath. "My assignment," he announced, "which is—and cue drumroll—Someone Who Influences Me. Not in those exact words, but that's the gist of it."
Finishing with a flourish, he stared expectantly at her. She blinked uncomprehendingly at him. He promptly deflated.
"C'mon," he cajoled, "no comment? I give you an assignment that sounds like it's from high school, and you have no comment?"
"It sounds like it's from elementary school, actually."
Rick spluttered. "Well—I—That's the point. Why do they give us such assignments, anyway? Why not ask us to do in-depth analyses of a character from a novel—an award-winning novel? Ooh, or even a comic-book character—I'd do that gladly. But someone who influences me? What does that even have to do with literature?"
"Who would I write about, anyway?" Rick continued, not stopped by her obvious disinterest.
"Your mom?" she offered. Rick winced.
"Okay, Martha Rodgers is … a character, I'll give you that. But not the character I want."
"No." He did not elaborate.
She did not ask.
"Well, I s'pose you're just gonna have to look somewhere else, then," she said unsympathetically, pulling her book towards herself and prying it open once more. "Good luck."
Rick was silent. Kate took that to mean that the conversation was dismissed; flipping through the pages until she found the one that she had been on, she popped an M&M into her mouth and continued reading.
For a while, she thought that he was going to stand up.
For a while, she thought that he was going to pick up his backpack and finally leave her alone.
After a while, she was proven to be wrong.
Her left arm reaching up to cross over her left shoulder, she clamped her hand around his face to push it back from where it had been hovering.
"Richard," she said in irritation, turning to him. His face was still squished into the expression her unmerciful fingers had left it in.
"Kate," he protested.
"Is there something else you need?"
"I want to write 'bout you."
"What?" she barked incredulously. "You want to what about me?"
"Write about you," he persisted. "I want to write about you for my assignment."
"As someone who influences you?" she asked sarcastically. "What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing. You seem influential."
"I seem influential?" She casted her eyes skywards. "Wow, you're really selling this idea, aren't you?"
For some reason, Rick perked up beside her. "Does that mean you're into buying it?"
"Why not? I'll make you look good, I promise."
She laughed shortly. "Excuse me if I don't trust myself at the hand of your literary skills."
"Am I really that bad a writer?"
Kate was strongly tempted to brush him off with a blunt remark about his hardly being William Shakespeare. When she opened her mouth, however, his eyes flickered for a moment—not slowly enough for her to truly grasp the nature of his expression, but not quickly enough to escape her notice either. With sudden clarity, she came to the realization that her throwaway comment would not be quite as much of a joke to him as it would be to her. Sighing in resignation, she dropped defensive shoulders and pressed up closer to him.
"Rick," she began softly. "I'm … not a good person to write about."
"I think you are," Rick said stubbornly.
"You don't really know me."
"I could," he pointed out. "I know we haven't known each other for long, but I like you, and you seem like a good person."
"Yes, but we don't even have anything in common. There's no way I could have influenced you."
"It's just an assignment." He lifted his shoulders and dropped them. "It doesn't have to be real."
She felt a pang in her heart at that. "Then why not make somebody up?" she asked, turning away from him and looking across the length of the cafeteria.
"I…" he stuttered. "I don't know. Maybe I need somebody real to inspire me."
She smiled wanly. "So, what: Part-fiction, part-truth?"
She wanted to. (She really wanted to.) That was the reason she had not wholly dismissed him yet. It was flattering, picturing herself immortalized if only on the pages of a college assignment—but she was no heroine. She was not anybody's main character. Ever since her mother's death when Kate was nine, Kate herself had only ever played an auxiliary role in others' lives; to have Rick Rodgers create a story—embellished by the far reaches of his fantasy—about her as an influential model would make him not only a liar, but a pitiable fool.
So, she shook her head. "I'm not someone to be morphed into a caricature of the heroine in your head."
He looked startled by that. "But Kate—"
"No," she said firmly. "Find a real hero, Rick. That's how you know you've gotten it right."
She did not elaborate.
He did not ask.
And that was that.