Hi everybody! This idea kept popping into my head and though I've never written any fanfiction before, I wanted to give it a shot! Any comments/feedback are more than welcome, and I'd love to hear from you guys on whether or not you'd be interested in this being continued!
Disclaimer: If I owned Castle I wouldn't be a poor college kid, but alas, I do not.
He looks out the hotel window with a sigh, disappointed with the sudden turn in the weather. It's been raining on and off all day, bouts of heavy downpours coming every few hours, and the sky is a dark gray, clouds covering up any semblance of light. He watches as water from the latest downpour cascades down the street, following the bends and curves of the curb. This is good weather for sitting at home with a cup of hot chocolate and his laptop, he admits, but not so much for travel.
He's in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the first round of book tours, kicking off the release of yet another installment in the Derrick Storm series. It's the third book in the series, and much like its predecessors, it's been selling extremely well so far; he's proud of this one, if only a bit more than the others, because he feels himself getting a little better with each new book.
It took an astounding twenty one rejections before his first novel, In a Hail of Bullets, was finally accepted by a publisher. He's proud of the fact that he stuck it out, didn't let rejection after rejection keep him from pursuing his dream of becoming an author. Fast forward a few years, a couple best-selling books later, and here he is, in this hotel room, on another book tour.
He loves book tours for the most part, he really does. The fan interaction, seeing their reactions and hearing how the book has helped or touched them in some way – that's why he does what he does. That's what keeps him going, keeps him engaged at the book signings even when he's two seconds away from falling over. He has bad days, as everyone does, but he can't complain.
Too much, that is.
The end of the book tour is getting closer and he's exhausted. He knows that this is a part of the job, part of what he signed up for, but it can get monotonous. It's state after state, city after city, book store after book store, and sometimes he forgets where he is, has to ask his publicist so he doesn't say the wrong name at one of the signings.
Being away from his daughter, Alexis, is the hardest part of book tours. She's eight and while she was on her winter break the past week, he didn't feel right hauling her across the country for such an extended period of time. He misses her more than anything and he makes sure to call her every night, if only to hear her voice for a few minutes before bed, but he knows she's safe with his mother. She usually comes with him for a few days during the tour and then goes back home, but this time his schedule was more hectic. He usually has a few free days, but this time it's been cut down to one and he knew he wouldn't have the time to take her around as much as he'd want to. It's hard, but he knows it's worth it in the end. He's doing this for Alexis, to give her the best life he possibly can; she's an extraordinary little girl, one he's lucky enough to call his, and he'll do whatever he can to make sure she's happy and healthy.
He has a few more signings in Ann Arbor in the coming days before he heads to Canton, Detroit, and then back to New York to finish off the tour.
He's excited, having never been to Michigan for an event before. The people he's met so far have been the sweetest, the towns have a certain homey atmosphere to them, and he's pretty sure he heard something about a coffee shop with pastries that are to die for. Later, he tells himself.
His attention comes back to the gloomy overcast outside, his shoulders slumping at the sight. He's been cooped up in his hotel room for hours; there is no signing today and Gina, his publicist, dubbed it his "free day."
Figures it's his free day that has the shittiest weather, making it difficult to go out and really enjoy the scenery.
Gina told him that he should stay in the hotel in order to keep him from "getting mobbed" by a hoard of fans, but he doesn't think he can do it. She mentioned something about a hotel gift shop, and maybe he'll stop down there to get something for Alexis and his mother at some point, but it isn't exactly how he wants to spend his day.
It's silly, he thinks, that she doesn't want him to leave the hotel. It's not like he could get himself into any serious – okay, so maybe her concern does have some validity. But that was one time, and it wasn't his fault. He'd had a few drinks too many, thanks to the generous bartender, and the other writers dared him to streak down the street. Who was he to turn down such a challenge? He just happened to pass the police horse, sitting lonely on the side of the road as its owner took a lunch break. Jumping on the horse and taking it for a joy ride probably wasn't one of his finer moments, but the opportunity presented itself and he took it.
But the odds of that happening more than once are practically non-existent.
He'll be fine.
It's decided, then. The hotel is extremely nice, very elegant, and his almost-suite-like room is gorgeous, but it's becoming stuffy and he needs to get out into the fresh air. Even if it is gloomy post-rain.
He backs away from the window and strolls over to the desk, plopping into the chair and grabbing the phone so he can call the front desk.
"Hello," he greets the woman on the other end, "I'm planning on going into town today and was hoping you'd be able to suggest some nice coffee shops or restaurants in the area?"
He cradles the phone between his chin and shoulder as he grabs a notepad from the desk, scribbles down the names the receptionist is giving him.
"I appreciate it, thank you so much," he thanks her before putting the phone back on the receiver.
His eyes glance around the room, his hand coming up to scratch the back of his head. "Where are my shoes..." he mumbles to himself.
"Aha!" A few more seconds of looking had him finding the shoes in question – one under the bed and one on the other side of the room by the window. He's not sure how that happened, but just shakes his head.
He slides his jacket on and grabs his wallet, quickly making sure he has his hotel key and phone before he leaves the room.
He doesn't know exactly why he's standing in front of what seems to be a bar or how he ended up there in the first place. It's on the list of places the receptionist gave him, sure, but he didn't know it was a bar and he didn't set out to go there. He left the hotel, making his way down the alleys and streets, and made a couple of turns – wrong turns, apparently – in search of one of the small cafes he'd been told about.
Looking at the place in front of him, he understands why the woman called it one of Ann Arbor's "hidden gems."
Babs Underground – a name that intrigues him, he'll admit – doesn't seem like a place you just end up at. It's in the middle of the street, blending in with the row of brick buildings it's situated between. You'd miss it just walking down the street and if it wasn't for the small, unassuming sign, he doesn't think he would even realize it was a bar.
"Babs" was written in all capital letters on the vertical sign, followed by a martini glass underneath.
From the outside, once you notice it, it looks like a small dive bar. He likes that about it already.
Though he had no intentions of going to a bar, he's there, and he's too curious about the inside now to go somewhere else. He's sure they have some good food, he'll have a drink or two, and then he'll venture into town some more.
He walks inside and his eyes widen in awe at the quaint place before him. It isn't at all what he pictured based on the outside appearance, and he figures there's some built in lesson about not judging a book – or bar – by its cover somewhere in that.
There are two levels: a lower level with a bar, some strategically placed tables, and an upbeat atmosphere that mirrored the energy of the myriad of people currently occupying it. He looks to his right and notices the stairs, taking one step at a time until he reaches the top. The upper level is different – much quieter, darker lighting, and another fully stocked bar. There's an area further back in the corner with a few pool tables, currently in use by a few guys.
He breathes in, scrunching his nose when he's met with the all too familiar smell of beer, somewhat stale peanuts, and more beer.
Even so, he opts for the upper level, enjoying the relaxed feel more than the overcrowded craziness of the lower level, and takes a seat on one of the bar stools.
"I'll have a suburban," he tells the bartender and watches as he prepares it. He's older, in his forties probably, and he's wearing a button down rolled at the elbows. The man returns quickly, sliding the glass across the bar to him with a friendly, "here you go."
He thanks him with a nod and takes to his glass, swishing it around before downing a majority of its contents. The burn as it slides down his throat is welcomed as it momentarily serves as a fight against the exhaustion he didn't realize was still creeping in on him. It's been a tiring week; long days of book signings and travel, running on little to no sleep, and it seems as though it's finally taking its toll.
After shaking his head in an attempt to steer away any stray bouts of sudden sleep, he turns slightly on his stool to look around the space he's in. It's still fairly dark, the lighting casting shadows in different areas of the room. There's a significant difference in the number of people upstairs as opposed to that of the downstairs level, and he takes this chance to observe those around him. Most of the tables are occupied by groups of two or more people, almost all of them animatedly telling some kind of story, arms waving around in front of them.
The table to his left has four people sitting at it and he thinks they're probably students at the University of Michigan; they look young, and while he wishes his deduction was one of pure talent for observation, one of them is wearing a UofM sweatshirt. Two girls and two guys – two couples, he decides. If he's right, he has no idea, but he spends far too long creating back stories for all four of the young students before he realizes his drink is empty again, forcing him to stop and ask for another.
It's for the best. It's a fun game when he's alone, to guess what everyone's story is and what's happening in their lives, but it's less fun when it's about young college kids. Then it's probably slightly creepy, he realizes.
He scans the room once more, silently making up stories for a couple others, before his gaze stops on one woman. She's sitting by herself in the back corner of the room, her body hunched over the tabletop. The lighting and the way her hair falls over her face make it difficult for him to see her clearly, but he watches as she absentmindedly swirls the drink in her hand, otherwise unmoving, for at least five minutes. There's something there, a story, a reason she's sitting there alone looking pretty upset, and he can't help but wonder what it is.
The woman is a stranger, but there's something about her that's piqued his interest already. He feels the need to talk to her, if only to make sure that she's okay.
Before he knows what he's doing, his legs are carrying him across the room, stopping just in front of her table, opposite her. She doesn't notice his presence, doesn't budge from her position, her head still in her hand.
"Do you mind if I sit down?"
The woman startles, wide eyes darting up to his, and wow – she's beautiful. The closer he looks, though, the more he notices. Her eyes are rimmed red and bloodshot, dried tears staining her cheeks. Her hair is wet, falling just below her shoulders, and he figures that's thanks to the most recent stint of rain. He also takes notice of her clothes; they look as though they've seen better days, much like the body they're currently resting on. She's swimming in her oversized sweater and the jeans are baggy, as if they'll all but hang off of her slim frame when she stands.
Her head falls back down and she just shrugs, sniffles a bit in what he assumes is an attempt to hide the fact that she's been crying, but she doesn't give an answer. He knows he should turn around, take her noncommittal shrug as a no, but he sits down anyway, silently placing his glass on the table in front of him. The drink in front of the woman looks barely touched but he can smell the whiskey and wonders how many she's had before this.
She doesn't look at him as they sit in silence – it's not uncomfortable, per say, but it's not comfortable either. He doesn't know what to do, doesn't know if he should say something. He almost asks if she's alright, but he knows that's a stupid question; the tear soaked cheeks tell him the answer to that question.
"I'm Rick," he offers softly, unable to bear the silence any longer.
She looks up and hesitantly meets his eyes, and he does his best to stay focused; his first instinct is to go over to her side of the table and wrap her in a hug, let her cry or get whatever it is she needs to get out, but he doesn't.
They're strangers, and strangers don't do that.
He gathered that she was upset beforehand, given her posture and the split second of her face that he caught, but now, meeting her eyes for real, he's speechless. As clichéd as it may be, he believes that eyes are windows into the soul, a way to truly see a person. The hazel eyes looking back at him are cloudy, empty. She looks young, early twenties at most, but the story behind those eyes is one of sadness well beyond her years.
He sits quietly as she looks him over, unspoken questions evident on her face, and he realizes that she's probably sizing him up.
"Kate," is all she says, almost inaudible, so quietly he barely hears her.
He gives her a small nod, a comforting smile. "Kate," he repeats. "I like it."
She huffs and he swears he sees her roll her eyes.
"Listen," she rasps, her voice laced with alcohol. "I'm really not looking for a one night stand or whatever it is you think that this-" She gestures between the two of them as she continues, "would turn into, so-"
Rick's eyes widen and he raises his hands. "What- no- that's not- I'm not-" he stutters, pausing to take a breath before he starts again. "I didn't come over here to get you into bed. Why would you think that?"
"That's what they all come over for," he hears her mumble to herself, her eyes cast down in her lap, and his heart breaks.
She shakes her head and sighs, training her eyes back on him. "Then why did you come over here?" she asks, and he can't tell if the tone of her voice is exasperation or exhaustion.
He shrugs, suddenly nervous. "Honestly?" he starts, watches as she raises her brows in response and he can practically hear the yeah, that'd be nice. "You look awful." She winces, her brows creased in what looks like involuntary hurt, and he immediately regrets it. For a writer, he really should have worded that better. "No, no, that's not what I meant. You just looked so upset, so sad, and I couldn't stop myself from coming over. I know if I was as down as you seem right now, I'd like to think that maybe someone would come talk to me, too."
She looks him over and meets his gaze again, expecting to see false sincerity, but she's met with honest eyes and what seems like a genuine reply instead.
Her eyes are hazy as she turns absently towards the bar and he wonders what she's thinking, tries to read her. He sees a number of emotions play across her face, each one gone as quickly as the last, so fast that he can't pinpoint any of them.
"I don't need your pity," she says bitterly, biting her bottom lip between her teeth, and then she's mumbling, "I have to go," with what looks like fresh tears making their way to the surface.
He shakes his head, his heart falling in his chest, his eyes watching her as she shifts in her seat. He wants to tell her that this isn't pity, wants to apologize if he made it seem that way. Before he can say any of the things flying around in his mind she's out of her chair, shrugging a bag onto her shoulder and turning her back to him.
"Kate!" he calls, his voice coming back to him, but she's already gone. He can't do anything but stand and watch as she practically runs out of the bar; he wants to run after her, make her understand that he didn't mean to upset her, but he doesn't.
She's too fast and he's too stunned to move.
He's still mulling over what just happened when his phone rings, breaking him out of a daze. He groans when he sees Gina's name on his phone but picks up anyway, knowing it'll just be worse if he ignores her.
"Gina, to what do I owe this pleasure," he lies through his teeth. She's never a pleasure, almost always a pain.
He runs a hand through his hair with a sigh. "I'm at a local bar, I needed to get out." He holds the phone away from his ear as she tells him he shouldn't have left the hotel, that something could've happened if some too-rowdy fans had cornered him and no one knew where he went, but he just shakes his head and pretends he's listening.
He knows that deep down, somewhere, she's looking out for his best interest, probably, but it's exhausting. He doesn't say that, though, just nods and goes with it if only to avoid any arguments.
"Alright, okay," he sighs. "I'll be back at the hotel in fifteen." He doesn't say goodbye before he hangs up, just shoves the phone in his pocket.
The cool bite to the air hits him as he exits the building and he curls deeper into his jacket. His shoulders hike up to his chin and he brings his hands up, breathing on them before rubbing them together for warmth.
He tries to occupy himself, tries to take in the sights of the tiny area he's passing by, but his mind is plagued by the woman from the bar for the entire walk back to the hotel.
She's a mystery.
There's a story there. It's a painful one, he can tell; one someone her age shouldn't have to be burdened by.
Not much was given away during their brief encounter, but he has a name.
The girl with the sad eyes is Kate, and he's determined to find her again.