Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.
AN: This is based off a prompt I saw on the Castle fic prompts tumblr. It's probably way off base from what the prompter wanted/was expecting but it's where my brain took me. Prompt will be at the end. Also this is totally unbeta'd so all mistakes are on me.
Trigger warning: brief mention of suicidal thoughts
"Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words."
~William Faulkner, Mosquitoes
Weak moonlight trickles through the half-open curtains, shaky beams that undulate across the foot of the bed, make the dark blue comforter look like a restless, fathomless pool. Thunder rolls, a low rumble that echoes through the empty rooms and halls, reverberates deep inside the hollow recesses of his chest. Rick settles into the bed, hips and shoulders sinking into the luxurious cloud of his pillow top mattress. He curls the toes of his right foot under until the tiny joints in each one pop, pads pressed hard against the calloused ball. The fingers of his right hand mirror the flex, clamping down around the cold brick of his cellphone.
Rick rubs the side of his thumb over the bezzled edge of the phone, worrying the smooth metal like a stone as he stares up at the gray washed ceiling. He knows he shouldn't call. Not tonight. Not when he feels like this, lonely and vulnerable and aching for comfort. Companionship.
But not just any companion will do. Not just any comfort will fill the the void, smooth over the ragged edges and illuminate the dark places inside his heart and mind. Only one person can do that for him tonight. Or any night. Only one person can make him start to feel whole again, like something more than a broken shell of a human. One person.
And he doesn't even know her real name.
With a sigh, Rick thumbs to life the screen on his phone and opens the recent call log. Squinting against the bright glow, he scrolls through the list of calls made and recieved, going back exactly two weeks. Hesitation grips him for only a moment before he presses the number, brings the phone to nestle between his right ear and the overstuffed down pillow. The line clicks then rings and he holds his breath in anticipation. Her voice, soft and husky, fills his ear after the third ring.
"Good evening, caller. You've reached Mistress Cat. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking tonight?"
Rick closes his eyes, lets the low hum of her words wash over him, calm the agitated buzzing inside his head. "It's Roger."
"Roger," she exclaims and Rick swears he hears a genuine note of happiness in her tone. "I've missed you."
"Missed you too, Cat."
And he has. For eight months he's been calling her at least twice a week, their conversations the most regular part of his routine. It started as just a release, a way to get off without having to go through the process of going out and meeting people. Without having to explain or see the looks of curiosity and pity. All he wanted, all he could handle, was a voice in his ear, the illusion of intimacy and affection. No more, no less.
Until the night he called her in tears, his body and soul aching with a pain even he can't find the words to describe. She talked him through it, helped him regain his breath and composure with her quiet words and sincere concern. Rick felt the shift that night, felt the exact moment it became about something more than sex and release for him. His routine remained the same after, but their conversations changed.
Teasing and commands gave way to lengthy discussions about books and art. Instead of telling her how he wanted to be touched, he told her the story of how he got stuck inside a drainage culvert when he was eight. Theatrical moans were replaced with the clear bell of her laughter, a trade he'd gladly make a thousand times over. He spent hours at a time on the line with her, using an earpiece when the heat of his phone against his skin became unbearable. Through stories and jokes and more tears than he cares to remember, he fell in love.
Unequivocally and irretrievably in love with a woman whose face he can only imagine.
"So," she drawls, the honey of her voice dripping down the side of Rick's neck and making him shiver, "don't make me beg. Tell me all about it."
A smile curls up the good side of his mouth, the spreading of his cheek making the phone shift away from his head. He readjusts, lifts his shoulder to hold it in place. "It was beautiful."
"You cried, didn't you? Big, fat tears."
"Of course I cried," Rick huffs in mock indignation. "Walking my only daughter down the aisle? What kind of a father would I be if I didn't shed a manly tear or two?"
"Or twenty," she laughs and he feels his smile pull impossibly wider.
"Fine, I cried. A lot. I'm not ashamed. Mock away."
A low hum floats down the line. "Not mocking, Roger. It's sweet. You're a good dad. It's one of my favorite things about you."
His heart kicks painfully against his ribs at her assertion. A good dad. He's trying. Trying to make up for the years when he wasn't. When he couldn't pull himself out of his own self pity long enough to acknowledge what he was doing to his daughter. His pain and anger were all he could see for far, far too long. Nothing will ever make up for the years of emotional neglect, the way he was physically present yet still absent, but he's trying. Oh how he's trying.
"I try," he whispers, voice catching on the regrets that live at the base of his throat. "It'll never be enough though."
She says his false name on a sigh and Rick closes his eyes, wonders what his actual name would sound like in her mouth, if she'd still roll the R, how she might snap her teeth around the K. So many times he's come close to telling her, asking her to call him by his real name instead of some bastardized version of his original surname. Something has always stopped him, held him back. He thinks it's fear. If he shatters the illusion, he might lose her. And if the past two weeks have proven anything to him, it's that he can live without the mellifluous sound of her voice in his ear but, god, he doesn't want to.
"I want to hear the joy in your voice," she tells him, a hint of pleading in her tone. "You've had enough sadness for multiple lifetimes. Let's just be happy together tonight, okay?"
Happy for the night. With her, he can definitely do that.
"Yeah," he agrees. "Happy."
"Good. Now, tell me about the wedding. What did her dress look like? Did you give a speech?"
Rick launches into a retelling of the day, stretching out storytelling muscles that he uses far too infrequently. He tells her about Alexis' dress and how she wore her hair in loose, flowing curls. His recounting of the overly dramatic reading his mother gave during the ceremony pulls choking giggles from her throat. She sniffles through his recitation of the speech he gave at the reception and how Alexis had kept the guest list small in deference to his anxiety in crowds.
"It was hard, standing up there with everyone staring at me, but the way Alexis hugged me after made it all worth it."
He hears a distinct wistfulness in her voice when she responds, "I can imagine."
"I sat out the father-daughter dance," he says, reaching down to rub at his left leg, his fingers bumping over the scars that criss cross the abrupt end of his thigh, just above where his knee used to be. "Her mother danced with her instead."
"Ah, the infamous first ex-wife. How'd that go?"
"Not great," he answers, an extreme understatement.
The last time he'd seen Meredith in person, he'd been whole. A man with two working legs and skin untouched by fire. A man who hadn't ever attempted to take his own life with a bottle of aspirin chased by a fifth of whiskey. He'd been himself, not the half-alive version he became after the accident.
"Oh, Roger." Empathy wraps each syllable and Rick feels the fresh wounds on his heart begin to heal. "What happened?"
"She - Well, Meredith has never been known for being tactful or discrete. She stared. Asked intrusive and inappropriate questions." He sighs, working overtime to keep himself from slipping back to that night. "Alexis shut her down at the reception but then she showed up at my hotel room later that night. She was drunk, of course, and she - "
He hesitates, worried for the first time in months whether or not he should tell her the truth. For him, the only falsehood in this strange but wonderful relationship they have is his name. Everything else he's told her has been the truth, or at least a vague version of it. But this - this feels different. Not calling her for two weeks was a direct result of his encounter with Meredith and he's just not sure if it's something he should share.
At her prompting, Rick sucks in a deep breath and takes the plunge. "She came onto me," he confesses, his voice high and rushed. "She pushed her way into my room and immediately started groping at me."
At his good side, anyway. Her hands, her lips, never once strayed to the damaged and scarred half of his body.
"I tried to put her off me as gently as I could but for a tiny, inebriated woman, she was surprisingly strong." The forced levity sounds flat even to his ears. "Eventually, I gave in and let her push me backward toward the bed. I figured with as drunk as she was she'd probably pass out pretty quickly once horizontal and I'd just let her sleep it off in my bed."
"I tripped. I'm still getting used to my new prosthesis and I was tired so I wasn't really balancing very well." Closing his eyes, Rick gives in and lets the images flicker across the black screen of his eyelids. "The heel of my dress shoe caught on the rug and I went down, taking Meredith with me. My leg came loose in the fall and -"
The horrified look on Meredith's face will forever haunt him.
Rick clears his throat. "She didn't react well."
"She stood in the middle of the room with her hand over her mouth while I tried to get myself up," he continues, unwilling to stop now. "After I'd managed to get on the bed, my leg still hanging out of the bottom of my slacks, I told her to go. I guess my voice finally snapped her out of it or something but instead of leaving, she crawled on the bed and started trying to kiss me again. I shrugged her off, told her I wasn't interested."
A quiet, angry voice fills his ear. "I'll bet she didn't take that very well."
Rick huffs out a dry, mirthless laugh. "No. Not at all. She got aggressive, kept trying to climb into my lap. I finally - I finally grabbed her by the shoulders and held her away from me. Told her I wasn't going to sleep with her. That I couldn't because -" He swallows, knows this is the moment where it could all go to hell. "Because I'm in love with another woman."
"She laughed. Looked me right in the face and laughed. She told me that there was no woman in the world who could ever care about me, could ever want me. She called me a freak." His voice cracks. "Said I was repulsive and that she was only going to fuck me out of pity." Rick touches the pads of his fingers to the damaged skin of his left cheek, brushing over the rough texture of the grafts. "She said a lot of other things too," he sighs, hand dropping back down to rest on his stomach, "but that was the gist of it."
Her voice sounds tiny and tight when she finally speaks. "I'm so sorry. You - She - You should never have had to be in that situation."
Rick shrugs in the darkness of his beach house bedroom, the rain still pattering against the windowsill. "It's okay."
"No, it's not." The fierceness in her words startles him. "No one deserves to be treated that way, but especially not you."
"She's right, though," Rick says, making a valiant attempt to sound unaffected. "I'm damaged. My body is a landscape of burns and surgery scars. No woman is ever going to want to touch me, much less love me."
"That's not true."
"And even if, by some miracle, someone did," he continues, talking over her interjection, "I don't think I'd be able to love her back." His lungs shudder violently as he takes a deep breath. "Because she wouldn't be you."
"Roger," she breathes, her voice shaky. "Don't."
"I have to," he responds, scarred left hand curling into a painful fist on his abdomen. "I'm sorry, but I do. I finally admitted it to myself that night in the hotel. I'm in love with you. Have been for months."
"You don't even know me," she argues and her words spark a flint of anger inside his chest.
"Yes, I do. I might not know your real name or what you look like, but I do know you. I know you, Cat." He sits up in the bed, knuckles aching with the force of his grip on the phone. "I know that you are kind and compassionate and scathingly witty. I know that you love to fish but can't stand to keep what you catch. I know that you stuck a lego up your nose when you were six and had to have it surgically removed. I know you pretend to love Jane Austen even though you really find her boring and overwritten."
"Rick," he cuts in. "My name is Rick. My name is Rick and I'm in love with you, whatever your name is. I love you."
"You don't," she says, tears making her stumble and choke. "You can't."
"Don't tell me how I feel."
"I'm not asking you to reciprocate," Rick breathes. "I don't expect that. I know - I know this is your job. I get that. To you I'm probably just another client. But it's more than that for me and I owed it to us both to be honest."
A harsh, echoing silence fills the space - however many miles it may be - between her phone and his. Rick listens to her breathe for a moment, his eyes trained out the window, watching the wild surf beat itself against the beach, breaking off pieces of the shoreline with each attack. He hears her sniff and feels his heart break.
"I have to go," she says, her voice thick with tears. "I'm sorry."
His phone beeps, the screen throwing a bright, blue light across his face when she disconnects. Rick lets it fall into his lap. He punches at the mattress with his good fist, savoring the sharp clench of his bicep. That wasn't what he - Fuck. He shouldn't have called her. But he did and now she's gone and -
His crutches rattle when he scoops them up from the floor, the rubber tips gripping the hardwood as he hauls himself out of bed and heads toward the bathroom. The lights stay off as he gulps down a glass of water, his weight resting on the edge of the marble counter. Water trickles from the left side of his mouth where his lips are pulled too tight by the shiny new skin of his cheek, and he lets it drip down onto his bare chest, cooling his flushed skin.
The sharp trill of his ringtone startles him. The glass shatters in the bowl of the sink when it slips from his hand and he curses as shards land at his feet. Using the crutches, Rick swings himself over the mess and out of the bathroom. He covers the ground between the threshold and the bed in record time, falling on the edge and scrambling for his phone.
No one should be calling him at one am.
Rick glances at the screen before answering. The number on the display has a New York area code but he doesn't recognize the rest. His thumb squeaks on the still warm screen when he swipes the green arrow to answer.
He can hear his own heartbeat in the silence.
"Cat? Are you - Is it you?"
A sniff comes over the line and he fists the comforter, his knuckles turning white.
"Please, Cat. Talk to me. Please."
"Kate," the voice he'd been convinced he'd never hear again croaks and his heart stops. "My name is Kate."
Prompt: AU based on 4x12. Beckett is a sex operator that Castle talks to.
Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.