A/N: What initially was meant to be a small one shot turned into a 10,000+ word monster. This work is completely written, and has been previously posted on my tumblr, but will left here for posterity and ease of reading in one place. If you have read this work there, I hope you enjoy it as much the second time around. If this is your first time reading it, I hope you find something inspiring within the words. Credit for this idea goes to castleramblings on Tumblr.
47 Seconds AU: What if Castle had finished his thought at the precinct and asked Beckett on a date.
The ache is his chest will not let up, not since the bombing, not since visions and dreams have again begun to crowd his mind. Kate bleeding on the grass, Kate broken on the asphalt, felled by another gunshot, a bomb, a knife. He thinks that maybe he has PTSD, that his life will be spent dreaming all the ways in which she can die, all the ways that her brilliant light can be snuffed out before he again gathers the courage to tell her the deepest, and maybe not the best kept, secret of his heart.
She doesn't remember that he loves her and the ache grows tenfold as the barista hands him two cups of coffee, the warmth seeping through the insulated plastic of their travel mugs and into his skin. He doesn't remember if he managed a strained smile for the young woman, can barely recall pressing the tip for her service into her hand, or the short walk from the coffee shop to the precinct.
What he does remember is the way his gut clenches, the breath leaving him in a lightning quick release when he glimpses Kate. She's whole and radiant at her desk, crease between her eyebrows as she studies the paper in her hands. Her chestnut and mocha curls tumble over her shoulders, the lighter strands highlighted by the grey-purple of her top and the morning sun that streams from the windows. She's captivating, beautiful in both physical appearance and inner strength.
As he steps from the elevator, Rick feels his resolve slip into place, confidence and assurance straightening his spine, quickening his step to her desk.
If she doesn't remember, he will tell her a thousand times so that she can't be mistaken because life is precious. He's seen her die, had his own life almost taken on far too many an occasion. If shadowing her, doing this job, have taught him anything, it's that many a person find themselves never reaching the goals they set. So many of them never go on that vacation or get around to losing that fifteen pounds. Life is unpredictable and he's going to make the most of it.
"Hey," Rick calls softly, hating the reserved tone of his voice, how timid and scared it seems. Still, Kate's eyes lift to his immediately, warm and pleased, the smile already curving at her mouth before he's even began to sit.
"Hey, thanks," she replies, her eyes flicking from him to the coffee he holds, following its path to the surface of her desk as he takes a seat in his chair, makes himself comfortable.
Her assurance that she has a second to talk, the complete openness in her eyes to invite him to share whatever is clearly on his mind helps loosen the knot that's tightened in his gut. The niggling doubts that have whispered in his ear since that afternoon in the hospital where she told him she'd never heard his confession momentarily grow silent, replaced by a more urgent voice that insists he tell her. It is that which voice sounds suspiciously like his mother, demanding in its repetitive nature, but somehow promising him everything he's ever wanted and a few things that he'd never openly dreamed of.
"Um, I've been thinking," Rick hedges on the words, his writer's brain scrambling a dozen directions in search of the best form to present his feelings, heart thumping against his throat as those forest green eyes search him from head to toe, "about the victims and all the opportunities they'll never have."
The second pause is infinitesimal, smaller than the space it takes to draw a breath, but he can already see the expectation, the fear, and the want that shade Kate's eyes. They're darker, shining vividly in the pale landscape of her face. It's a fetching portrait with her mouth parted and breathing quicker, the way her body sits coiled at the edge of her chair just waiting for him to say what has been resting deep inside for months, possibly even years.
So Rick leaps, lips parting and eyes shining with nerves, "And I don't want that to happen, I've been…" the tiny smile that curves at her mouth, the shift from concern to pure joy in her eyes threatens to stop his heart. He's determined to plow on with the rest of his sentence, to unleash the ten or so words that are half-formed in his brain out into the air for Kate to hear, to absorb, to agree with.
Instead they dissolve, consonants and vowels lost in the far reaches of his mouth at the snap of her last name from Ryan. There's an urgency to it, one that she can't ignore but it still takes a moment to tear her eyes from him, to focus on the fact they are in the precinct. They have a case to work, there is evidence to sort and clues to find.
And an apology. There's a clear apology in her gaze before she moves to look at Ryan, eyes flickering immediately back to him, "Uh…?"
"We've got something," the detective announces, halfway turned to return from wherever he came before Kate can reply that they'll be there in a minute. But the moment has passed, the tension and urgency, the spark between both of them replaced by the bustle of the bullpen, the case, all the things they need to get on with.
"It's okay," Rick says, a resigned smile on his face before he sees the way her body droops a little. He makes note of her disappointment, the slump of her shoulders, the dip of her chin and the downcast eyes that Kate attempts to hide with the excuse of gathering her black folder and a pen. The rest of the sentence dies in his throat as she stands, still shifting papers, organizing herself for whatever is to come with Ryan's find. As usual, she closes herself off behind work to downplay the emotions, retreating to stand behind the wall that he now knows she so desperately wants to tear down.
That thought is enough to make the decision for him, and Rick shifts to his feet before she can walk away, two broad fingers snagging against the cuff of her shirt. The other three fingers enclose her wrist, brushing the soft skin with just enough pressure that her breath hitches in her throat, eyes fluttering closed. In that action lies a reminder of the afternoon they spent cuffed to one another, the way in which the slightest shift or touch would draw their bodies together to create the best and, somehow, worst time he's spent in her company.
"Kate," the use of her first name has the detective's eyes popping open, another shuddering breath released from its hold in her throat. It makes him want to draw her closer, to lightly kiss the patch of skin between her eyebrows, her cheekbones, her mouth, "I don't want to wait anymore," he whispers, delighted at the soft curl of her smile, the light blush that paints a pink glow against her skin.
There's a brief linking of their fingers that he barely feels, too lost in the dancing merriment in her eyes, the even row of teeth that press into her bottom lip as she fights putting her joy on display for everyone in the division.
"Tonight, at eight. We'll make time," she promises, those same slender fingers tripping along his wrist, making him shiver at the touch and the idea that, finally, this magnificent woman is willing to take a leap, to risk her carefully protected heart for him.