A/N: Prompt from Castlefanficprompt: [Dedication] To the girl at the back of this coffee shop, it's gonna be better one day. Warning: Mention of self harm
Richard Castle likes to write in coffee shops. There is something about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the bustling of fellow customers and the occasional waft of freshly baked goods that relaxes him and makes him feel ready enough to tackle another stubborn chapter of his book. Besides, it is a great time to human watch and source inspiration for his characters.
He remembers that day he sees her.
It is overly sunny, he thinks. The sun is blinding and the scorching heat makes him squirm. The air conditioned cafe is a strong relief as perspiration dots his back during the short distance between his car and the cafe.
"Good afternoon, Rick! The usual?" The barista-Royston-greets him with a bright smile.
"Yes. No. Make it iced, please," he requests and slides over the money.
"Sure!" Royston gets to making the drink. "Your usual seat is taken," his voice drops into a whisper, almost timid or shy sounding.
Castle turns to look. Kudos to being subtle.
A brunette is sitting there at his usual seat at the back of the cafe, her hands wrapped around a mug and a book before her.
He thinks he sees tears in her eyes.
She looks so... Sad. She doesn't move, looking down at the mug.
Sadness must be contagious. Looking at her, he himself feels a pang in his heart.
The coffee is done. "Thanks," he smiles and darts to the back, choosing a seat close enough to her but far enough so he doesn't invade the needed privacy she needs.
Right. He has to write.
He stares at the blank document.
He looks up.
The woman's hair tumbles down, a curtain that shields her face from her. She moves, almost mechanically, lifting up her hand to brush the fallen strands of hair away.
He hides behind the screen once more.
Her presence bears down on him.
He peeks over again, and tries to see the title of the book. "In a Hail of Bullets" he mouths. His book? She is reading his book?
He smiles a little, proud of that small fact.
She doesn't pick the book but stares at the door. She is waiting. He doesn't know for whom, but she is waiting.
He watches her, as subtly as he can, trying not to draw her attention towards him. He doesn't want to be a creep in her eyes.
They sit there, him before the safety of his laptop and her open to the world. His cup of iced latte has long become diluted and hers has long become lukewarm.
He finds himself writing, bit by bit, fueled by his curiosity. He wants to know more. He stands and tries to find the courage to walk towards her.
She stands up abruptly, the chair almost knocking over.
Taking in a shaky breath, she stalks out of the coffee shop, the book tightly pressed against her chest.
He catches a glimpse of a badge sitting at her hips.
She is back the next day, sitting at the same spot, with the same book on the table.
He slicks to the same seat, and sips on his latte, sneaking glances at her.
Her hair is scraped back into a messy bun, leaving a few strands curling around her face. She, like the day before, is still, staring at the door.
Her eyes, green with flecks of yellow-gold, if he were to be romantic-still holds the heavy sadness that makes her look older than her supposed age. Grief weighs people down. He should know.
He writes as she waits and he swallows the questions that burns his throat.
Her sleeves are short that day, revealing her toned arms. Her eyes are red and swollen, and he thinks, he thinks he sees cuts on her arms. Red, angry lines that glares at him. Oh god.
His breath hitches.
He is familiar with self-harm in a way, understands what it's like to want to end it all. He just-
"Royston," he whispers. The barista arches his eyebrows.
"You don't have to whisper," Royston whispers.
"You are whispering too. Anyway, can I have that slice of strawberry shortcake?" Castle points at the particular slice of cake with the biggest strawberry. Strawberry shortcake is known to cheer people up, or at least, his daughter, back when she was still-
Royston serves him the cake and Castle takes it gratefully. Mustering up every inch of courage he has, he goes to the woman's table and puts the cake down.
Before she can say anything, he runs away,
It becomes a little routine, to say the least. She sits and waits. He writes. He has Royston place a plate of strawberry shortcake on her table. She eats the strawberry, leaves the cake untouched.
He doesn't know what has happened to her but he hopes that she isn't alone. Being alone at a dark period of time isnt the best.
Darkness creeps up on you when you're alone, swallowing your heart up.
He doesn't want her to be alone and he wishes she has someone there to support her.
To be alone is terrifying.
He dreams of her haunted eyes and the ring around her neck. He writes a book about her, about a beautiful woman with an unspeakable grief finding her strength within herself.
He wants to talk to her but he is cautious of intruding.
He wants to know, wants to help.
But her eyes freeze him and he can't move.
So he does it the way he knows. He uses his words, uses his books.
He hopes she likes it.
He slides the book on her table. He isn't techically allowed to do it, but what Gina and Paula don't know won't hurt them.
He hides behind the counter, watching her.
She stops at the table and picks up the book, her eyebrows furrowed.
She looks tired.
Flipping the cover open, she stares at the dedication.
"To the girl at the back of this coffee shop, it's gonna get better someday," he whispers the words out.
Maybe she will hear him.
Her fingers trace over the printed words and she jerks up, her eyes searching the coffee shop.
And he finds her stalking up to him.
She knows he is here, Richard Castle. He goes to the cafe everyday, sitting somewhere near here. She doesn't speak to him, can't find the courage to, but he is always there, writing. She knows the strawberry shortcake is from him. Who else is there to care about a crying girl?
So when she finds the book on the table she usually sits (waiting for her mother she knows will never arrive), she is surprised, to say the least.
And the dedication.
Oh god, the dedication.
To the girl at the back at the back of this coffeeshop, it's gonna get better someday.
She traces the words, imprinting them in her mind, searing them in her skin. Tears burns her eyes and her breath hitches. She needed that. Needed the words.
She scans the room, searching for the mop of brown hair.
And she finds him, crouching behind the counter, the barista standing awkwardly next to him.
She tries to form the words she wants to say. Thank you? Is she thankful?
But all she says is "Kate. My name is Kate Beckett."