Author's Note: This is the very first Castle fic I ever wrote. It's been sitting patiently on my computer since January and I can't think of a more perfect time to share it with you. I've broken it into four parts and I'll post one each day to help us all survive this week. This chapter is not rated M, but the subsequent ones definitely will be. Immense thanks to Meg, for a friendship that brings smiles and giggles every day, and who is always there whenever I need hand-holding or help brainstorming :) - Bri x
And now, let's cast our minds back to the beginning of Rick and Kate...
The Magnitude of These Small Hours
Kate stares straight ahead as the elevator rises. Rainwater drips from her hair into the deep plush of the carpeting, but she doesn't notice. Not that she'd give a damn anyway.
Castle's doorman had offered her a towel when she'd shown up in the lobby, soaking wet and shaking. She'd been prepared to flash her badge to get in, but when she'd reached for it she found her waistband empty. Luckily, it was Sam on duty. She'd have to apologize later for stalking past him without their usual friendly chat.
The muscles in her calves twitch as they adjust to her sudden stillness. It had only taken her six minutes to run to his loft from the park across the street from her apartment. Twice on the way she'd stopped abruptly, doubling over, clutching for the nearest brick wall or cold steel of a parking meter, almost vomiting, sick with the knowledge of how incredibly massively she had screwed up.
Their last conversation runs on a loop in her head. Strangely, it's not his confession of love that she remembers most vividly - he was right, she'd known that for a while, had been living for months with it wrapped around her like a warm coat - they were not the words that had shocked her.
So this is … over. I'm done.
She hadn't expected to feel the loss so immediately. She hadn't expected it to feel the same as when Detective Raglan had delivered his rote and unconvincing apology thirteen years ago. She hadn't expected to feel the weight of it press down on her chest, as real as any bullet.
But she couldn't just pull a U. Her vendetta was not cruising down a quiet suburban street, it was going ninety on the highway. When the door slammed behind Castle, she'd gotten the panicked feeling she'd just missed her exit.
Done? No. It couldn't be over. He wasn't on a slab in the morgue or in a box in the ground. There was still a chance. There had to be.
So yes, she'd stumbled a couple of times. But both times she had straightened, her resolve hardening in her. Four years he had been fighting for her. For them. Now it was her turn.
Yesterday morning, she'd been prepared to let herself into him slowly, let them adjust to the temperature and enjoy their beginning. For weeks she'd been waiting for him to ask her somewhere, to do something, just so she could finally say yes. It had paid off - when she accepted the invitation to his John Woo marathon, she'd soaked up his reaction like a proud child. Drank in his awe like it was a cure.
It seems ridiculous to her now, too light for all that's transpired in the hours since, but after they'd made their plans she'd had a firm little talk with herself about putting out on the first date.
Now she's prepared to give him everything. Anything it takes, all at once if he needs it.
The elevator opens and she can't wait even the thirty seconds it will take to walk to his door. Her phone is in her hand and her thumb finds his name in the recent call list before she knows what she's doing.
He doesn't answer, and for a sickening moment she wonders if it rang as many times as it usually does, if he declined the call, but she doesn't allow the thought to linger.
The flat soles of her boots make no sound as she plows down the hallway. She hesitates for just a beat before her knuckles meet wood, but it isn't because she's nervous, or has even a shred of doubt. It's just the breath she needs to calm down, to prevent the knock from sounding like the ones she executes when she's wearing her bulletproof and gripping her Glock. She needs him forgiving, not startled out of his wits.
He doesn't take long to answer the door, wearing a look of innocent friendliness. Who was he expecting to find? Downstairs neighbor asking to borrow half a cup of sugar? She waits for the adjustment she knows is coming, and in a harsh, impossibly fast shift, the line of his mouth hardens, eyes dulling in the space of a second.
He's angry. It has the opposite effect on her that she assumes he wants it to have. He looks so handsome, those impossibly broad shoulders filling the crisp black-cherry fabric of his dress shirt. Oh, Castle. Her head empties dizzyingly. She teeters on the knife edge between her intense, long-kept-secret love for this man (huh, that's what it is, isn't it?) and her pure and shockingly carnal desire for him.
She's barely breathing, but she smells him, more than just expensive cologne and clean linen, but the darker, warmer scent that comes from a person's blood, the one that doesn't change with clothes or bottled scents. It's the smell that has haunted her for four years, the one that follows her home after work.
A few weeks ago, Castle had spent the last hour of the day sitting at her desk while she'd shared with Ryan to sift through a vic's financial records. Her coat was hung on the back of her chair, and she couldn't help but notice that Castle's back was pressed against it, oh so casually, the fine hair at the nape of his neck brushing over the collar. Somehow, it gave her a breathtaking glimpse into what it would be like to be intimate with him. He'd acted like it was the most ordinary thing in the world, but she could feel him as surely as if he was leaning back against her own shoulder.
She'll never ever tell anyone that when she got home that night, she'd hung her coat up in her closet, buried her nose in the collar, and inhaled until she couldn't detect any of him left on it.
What had lingered on her coat was a pathetic trace compared to what was emanating from the man standing in front of her.
"Beckett what do you want." It comes out on one breath, no punctuation, all sloping downwards. There's not even a glimmer of hope in it. It demolishes her.
She doesn't trust herself with words. Experience has taught her that when it comes to him, hurtful, stupid things fly out of her mouth before she even has a chance to think about how they will sound. If she launches into a flowery apology, it's bound to end in disaster. In the box, she knows how to stay in control, knows how to get what she wants. Castle, in this as in so many other things, is the exception to the rule.
There's only one thing she can say that's safe, one thing that's true.
Suddenly, the momentum that's been building since her last two fingers slipped off the roof of the Rosslyn Hotel comes to a crest. It's the easiest decision she's ever made to unleash herself on him.
She surges forward.
Castle recoils, retreating by three stumbling, uncertain steps. You can run, Castle, she thinks, but you can't run as fast as me. Her hands find purchase on either side of his neck, fingers tightening until she can bring him to a stop.
And then her lips are on his and she feels like crying. They're so incredibly soft and warm, like the centre of a freshly baked loaf of bread, just as she remembers from that one undercover kiss that she thinks about more often than he could ever dare to hope. Unlike that kiss, this one is quick, their lips meeting and parting like friends who see each other every day.
She smudges a line down his cheek with the pad of her thumb, a small gesture, trying to convey just a fraction of her deep and aching regret. She doesn't need to look at him to know exactly which emotions are at war on his face.
He looks pained. I don't need a fucking pity kiss.
Desperate for more. Kate.
Bewildered. How can you do this if you don't mean it?
She does mean it though, and she owes him so many apologies.
"I'm so sorry, Castle," she whispers. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."
His eyes are still closed, and she hopes the kiss is able to breach the barricades of his heart, if not his head. She goes in for another, hungry for that moment where the spark strikes and the fire catches.
The moment doesn't come. His lips kiss her back, but his hands wrap painfully around her wrist and he tears her off of him. She can't imagine a crueler whiplash.
"What happened?" he asks.
"I almost died, Castle, and all I could think about was you," she confesses, eyes wide and honest and brave. "I just want you."
Desperation growls low in her, starving her. She's starting to shake again, and she's got no pride left. It's a last ditch effort when she cranes her neck up in an effort to chase his lips again, but this time he doesn't even meet her.
Cold acid replaces her blood, icing through her veins. He'd really meant it; it was over, she'd ruined it. All she can think is oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck this hurts. Her stomach contracts, offering a sudden, clear glimpse of the days that will follow this rejection. Days and months of grief, loss, and emptiness. Just like before. She's been barely living for more than a decade, was clinically deceased for whole minutes after the bullet, but now … she starts mourning herself, because for a split second, Katherine Beckett is dead.
Lightning flashes. In the whiteness, Castle makes his decision. He has so many questions, but he knows that if they start talking now, there is a chance this could all come apart, unravel at the seams, and his poor body and his poor heart would miss out on finally, finally, being able to touch this woman.
So. Just no. No talking. Not yet.
She's careening, hydroplaning, out of control with grief. But Castle tilts his face down to catch her eyes, the stormy blue of his boring into her, pulling her back into focus. His eyes are dark, fierce, and frightening. And something else too. Something she wants to believe is need. Before the spark of hope can flame, his hands are on her hips and he's shoving her backwards, shoving her away, but oh, now he's following, and her back hits the hard wood of his door a fraction of a second before his body closes around her.
The sound of the door slamming shut swallows her sharp intake of breath.
And then he's on her, devouring her, and oh there it is, there it is, the free fall drop of passion they've been on the brink of for so long now. It had been intoxicating to look down on. They hadn't been able to help themselves, had inched so close to the edge dozens of times just to taste the thrill.
It's more exhilarating than any roller coaster.
They claw at one another, hands and mouths never stilling. She digs her fingertips into his shoulder blades; he buries his face in her neck. She licks a trail along his jaw; his fingers spread open on her cheek and then travel to grip the back of her head.
They press searing kisses into each other, branding one another, always moving, moving, moving. At first it's just his chest pinning her to the door, but when he scrapes his chin under her ear, her hips buck violently into his. He slams back into her so messily she thinks it's involuntary, but fuck it's so good, and then their hips are in motion too, and suddenly they're fully undulating against one another.
His mouth leaves a hot, wet trail along her neck as he dips lower, licking and kissing across her collarbone until he reaches the edge of her shirt.
The moment he sees the scar tucked low between her breasts, his face changes, dropping limp with reverence. Slowly, he unbuttons her shirt and just stares.
She sees it every morning when she gets dressed in front of the full length mirror on the back of her bedroom door. The cut of every bra she owns draws her gaze down to the firm, shining circle. A reminder of the day he almost lost her. Three months of changing bloody bandages made it real to her.
The slack look on his face tells her just how unreal it is to him.
She takes his hand in hers and presses his fingers against the scar, capturing his mouth with hers. The flashing surface heat of their earlier kisses becomes deeper, finally burning through that invisible wall that's kept them apart for years.
Castle's tongue presses into her, exploring her mouth in an erotic swirl. She meets him, strong and hard, trying to promise him with this kiss that she's not holding anything back anymore.
It's not enough. What she needs to show him will take more than kisses. She needs more of him. They're in the hallway, writhing fully clothed against his front door like excited teenagers, and she needs him in very adult ways. So she gentles the kiss, decelerating until he opens his eyes.
Their smiles break open at the same moment, timid and hopeful and grateful and just everything.
She nudges his nose with hers and takes his hand.