Leap of Faith

"Another time, perhaps?" Colin Hunt flashed her one of his charming smiles, bowing out graciously after she'd declined his offer of drinks, and judging from the little gleam in his eyes, something more. His question had been subtle, but she knew he was interested. If it was just drinks he wanted, he wouldn't have mentioned he had a 'few hours' before his flight.

He was handsome, yes, but Kate Beckett wasn't really interested in the Brit, even as a temporary distraction. Her heart yearned for another, and though things were confusing and complicated at the moment, she wasn't going to run the risk of further damaging whatever it was that had broken between them. Kate watched Hunt go, and then sighed, turning to see Castle approaching, pocketing his phone.

"Where's Scotland Yard off to?" he questioned, his tone a forced indifferent, like he was just making polite conversation.

"He's going back to London," she replied as casually as she could. Castle nodded, dropping his eyes from hers, readying to depart. "Um… Castle," she hedged, suddenly unsure how to talk to him. God, when had things become so awkward? "Do… um… do you have a second? Can we talk?" she asked hopefully, her heart clenching inside her chest in anticipation of another brush off, which was what she got.

"Actually, I don't," he said, voice flat. "Jacinda has the Ferrari double parked in a loading zone." He shuffled past her, heading in the direction of the elevator.

"Wow," she blurted out when his back was to her, unable to suppress the slightly judgmental and sarcastic tone in her voice. "Four dates in three days. You must really like her, huh?"

Castle turned back to her. "Yeah," he said, but then his smile fell as he narrowed his eyes, staring at her with a challenging gaze. "Why?"

Kate swallowed and looked up at him, feeling her stomach twist with uncertainty. Was he giving her an opening to call him on his bullshit? She blinked her eyes, wondering if this was her last chance to pull them back from the brink of nothingness. She had to act now, or all would be lost. Kate needed to tell him the truth, tell him the reason why his current behavior upset her. She needed to tell him, confess her sins and pray that he'd accept her for who she was, flaws and all.

It was now or never.

This was the moment to act.

"She just…," she started, but then her courage abandoned her, and she hopes shattered like the waves on the rocks. "She doesn't seem like your type."

Castle's shoulders seemed to deflate with disappointment, as if he'd been hoping for more from her. She doesn't blame him, she'd been hoping for more as well. But she'd taken the cowardly way out, still too afraid to bare her already bruised heart to the one man who could break it completely. Maybe they'd missed their shot. Maybe this was it. Maybe this was the end. Kate watched with grief as Castle's recent cold exterior reasserted itself, like a mask he was wearing to protect himself, unable to stop it.

"Yeah, well… she's fun and uncomplicated. I think that's what my life needs right now," he declared, promptly leaving without so much as a goodbye.

Kate released a breath, staggering back in shock. It was like a slap in the face. Her world was crumbling. Whatever hope there once was to fix the divide between them was now gone. She'd wasted her last chance. Slumping down into her chair, she dropped her head in defeat, breathing steadily to keep the tears from falling. Swallowing heavily, she fiddled with her phone. Perhaps he was better off without her. Maybe the blonde stewardess was better for him right now. Picking up her phone, she swiped through her contacts, locating the number Colin Hunt had provided. Her thumb hovered above his name, hesitating, taking a moment to really think over it.

Was this what she wanted? Would one night with Colin Hunt, handsome and charming he may be, make up for missing her chance with the man who could quite possibly be the love of her life?

"No!" Kate nearly shouted, dropping her phone, and startling some of her colleagues, who'd' been quietly filing their paperwork.

A fire began to build inside her, and Kate jumped out of her seat, abandoning her phone—and temptation—on her desk as she rushed out of the bullpen, bypassing the elevator and making straight for the stairs. Castle's words from almost three years ago flashed through her mind: "Most people come up against a wall, they give up. Not you. You don't let go. You don't back down. That's what makes you extraordinary." Kate's jaw clenched, determined to prove him right.

The metal door clanged loudly as she burst through into the stairwell. Gripping the railing, she propelled herself forward. Her heels pounded against the steps as she leaped down them at unsafe speeds. If she weren't careful, she'd fall and twist an ankle. But time was of the essence. She could take the risk. Castle was worth it. This was her leap of faith; her last desperate chance to get it right before it all came tumbling down. The love that she could share with Castle was worth the risk of a twisted ankle.

Prophetic words, indeed, as when she slammed down against the final landing, her ankle twisted painfully, creating yet another obstacle for her to overcome. She gritted her teeth, determined not to give up. She was done with letting life pass her by. Damn it. She was tired of missing out. She was going to seize life by the horns and take control.

Ignoring the throbbing pain, Kate limped through the precinct lobby, paying little attention to the curious stares her mad rush garnered from those present. She pushed her way out the door, and gasped in the cool night air as she walked haltingly out onto the sidewalk, frantically looking around for Castle's red Ferrari. Her eyes flashed with relief when she spotted it sitting along side the curb a little ways down the block. He'd been wrong, the blonde stewardess wasn't doubled parked.

Heedless of the awkward confrontation ahead of her, Kate hobbled over to the car, for once in her life determined not to cower away from potential heartbreak. Things may be screwed up at the moment, but she knew with every fiber of her being that Richard Castle, egotistical, self-centered jackass he may be at times, was the man for her. And, if she must, then she would fight for him.

As she drew near, her gut was telling her that something seemed off. There was a silence to the surrounding air that was almost unnerving. Reaching the Ferrari, Kate's eyes grew wide in surprise when all she saw was Richard Castle, sitting alone with his face buried in his hands, no bimbo in sight. Her mouth dropped, and her words abandoned her, as she stared at the sight before her, her brow furrowing in confusion.

Castle's shoulders shook, and she realized belatedly that he was silently crying. She blinked, snapping out of her stunned stupor, and limped towards the sports car, grabbing the handling and pulling the door open. Castle's head snapped up as she slipped into the passenger seat beside him, blinking and frantically wiping at his red eyes in a futile attempt to hide the evidence of his breakdown.

"Kate… what… what are you doing here?" he managed to stammer out, voice still thick and heavy with what sounded like a mixture of anguish and disbelief, though small it may be.

Looking at him now, devoid of feigned indifference, Kate's heart clenched with a raw, tentative hope that perhaps not all was lost, as she had feared. Turning in the seat to face him fully, Kate made sure to look him directly in the eyes. "Something is broken between us," she stated, momentarily pushing aside her questions over the absent stewardess and her whereabouts. "And I'm sorry if you don't feel like talking, but come on, Castle… haven't we done enough of that? I think it's time we started talking about things… out in the open, without subtext, just there."

He swallowed, warily eying her. "You sure you want to do that?" he asked cautiously, as if he didn't believe a word she was saying.

"Yes, I am," she bobbed her head decisively. "It's time to clear the air, and be honest with one another."

"Alright, if that's how you want to do it," Castle agreed, squaring his shoulders and steeling his gaze, anger flashing across his eyes. "Then how about you admit that you've been stringing me along for a year, laughing at me behind my back as you feed me little crumbs, just enough to keep me hooked and dangling without needing to make any real promises."

"What!?" her eyebrows shot up in alarm and confusion. "What are you talking about? I haven't been stringing you along. I'd never do that."

"Oh, really," he ground out, scoffing in disbelief, glaring at her. "Come now, Beckett, I thought we were being honest here."

"I am," she shook her head. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Castle flashed her a dubious look, before stating, in a surprisingly calm voice, "I heard you. You remember. You know I love you. You've known for about a year. Yet clearly you don't feel the same, because if you had, you wouldn't have lied to me."

Kate's heart hammered inside her chest as she recalled that day in the box, interrogating Bobby during the bombing case. Oh God. No. No. No. "You were there," she gasped out in realization. "You heard… everything?"

Castle inclined his head in confirmation, the fire in his eyes fading, turning sad. "I guess I always sort of suspected, but to hear you say it out loud, to use it as an interrogation technique, I… I guess it just made me acknowledge how deluded I've been into thinking you could ever really love me." She opened her mouth to object, but he held up a hand to forestall her. "I know you care about me, Kate. I do. But not in the way I hoped you did. And that's okay. It is. I can accept that. And I think I can understand that you were probably just trying to be kind and let me down easily, but… damn it, did you have to keep stringing me along with false hope."

He inhaled a long breath, and Kate waited until she was sure he was done, before taking her turn. "Damn it, Castle… you idiot, I wasn't stringing you along," she said, a little more sharply than she'd intended. She had tried to keep her voice firm with no wiggle room for doubt. "That hope you had wasn't false. It was real. It was there. I… I thought you understood me on the swings, what I said about not being ready for the kind of relationship I wanted. That… that relationship… it was with you. God, Castle… don't you see? This whole year as been about healing, making myself better, into the kind of person you deserve, not the cracked husk of a broken woman."

"What?" it was Castle's turn to be confused. "Kate… you're not broken. I've… I've never thought that about you. Yeah, I know you have problems, we all do, but I've never held that against you. How could you think that?"

"Because you never said it again!" she nearly sobbed out, eyes watery, her chest heaving with the release of finally having that weight lifted off her shoulders. She hadn't realized how much she'd been holding in until the emotions surged up. "The only time you ever said it was when I'd been shot. I was lying there, in excruciating pain, dying… what… what was I to think?"

"I… I…" Castle stammered.

"At first, when I woke up in the hospital bed, I thought I'd dreamed it, that you couldn't possibly love someone like me," she said. "But then as the fog of anesthesia cleared, and the harsh reality crept in, I knew it wasn't my imagination… I knew immediately that it was real. That you'd said it. But… I wasn't sure why. I… I thought you might have said it because you thought I was dying; so I thought it best to let you off the hook and lie, say I didn't remember anything. But then I saw your reaction to my words and I knew… I knew then that you meant what you said."


"No… please, let me finish," she held up her hand. He inclined his head. Kate sucked in another quick breath before continuing. "Your words—your love—kept me alive, Castle. During the darkest days of my recovery, when all I could think about was giving up and surrendering to the bleakness of it all, it was the thought of letting you down, of… missing out on something extraordinary with you, that kept me going and brought me back to the light, made me want to become more."

She paused and took another breath, forcing herself to look him in the eye. "And I'm really sorry for everything and anything I have done that made you think I didn't appreciate all that you've done for me. Because, honestly and truly, I do. I… I love you, Castle, more than I can ever really express. And I can't lose you. So… so if I've missed my shot, if it's already too late and you've given up on me—I won't blame you if you have—I… I just want you to know that I do… that I do love you, and… and always will."

Castle stared at her in stunned disbelief, his jaw slack and eyes wide. When he didn't respond, she took that as his answer. Pursing her lips and bobbing her head in understanding, already figuring she'd been too late, Kate popped open the door and climbed out on unsteady legs. She hissed as she put pressure on her twisted ankle, but she held her head high, determined to walk away with some of her pride still intact.

She was almost halfway to the precinct, when a hand curled around her arm, tugging her back, halting her progress. Steeling herself, she spun around to find Castle, gazing at her beseechingly.

"Kate, wait… don't go," he pleaded.

"What about your date?" she asked reluctantly, tipping her chin in the direction of his empty Ferrari.

"There was never a date," he confessed, ducking his head down, shamefaced. "She left this afternoon. It… it was all an act. I… I saw you with Scotland Yard, and… and—well, he was obviously interested—and I didn't want to let you know how much that bothered me. So I tried to make it look like I was happy, when in reality it was tearing me up inside to see you laughing and smiling with him."

"I…," Kate opened her mouth to respond. "I'm sorry?" she hedged, brows knitting together, unsure what she was supposed to say.

"Don't be," he huffed out. "If you'd wanted to… with him… then it wasn't my place."

"Castle," she shook her head, raising a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose in exasperation. "Didn't you just hear me? I love you—you—and as tempting as a night with Hunt might have been, I'd rather it be with you. Hell, I just told my therapist the other day that I just want to fuck your brains out."

Castle let out a choking noise when she said that, his eyes going wide as he stared at her in surprise at such an admission. Kate smirked, gazing affectionately at him as he worked at recovering from his shock. He cleared his throat and glanced back at her with an amazed expression on his face, his eyes shining with a look that had been missing for the last couple of weeks.

"You actually said that?" he gasped in astonishment.

She inclined her head in confirmation, blushing slightly. It had actually been a little embarrassing when she'd blurted that out in a session with Dr. Burke. She ducked her head down bashfully, before taking a deep breath and meeting Castle's eyes, needing to know something ahead of anything else they might do, even if it was not really any of her business.

"Did you sleep with her?"

"I'm sorry? What?"

"Jacinda?" she spat out the stewardess's name like it was a curse, fortifying herself for the answer. "Did you sleep with her?"

Castle heaved in a deep breath, dropping his gaze momentarily. "I won't lie to you," he started, and her stomach sank, knowing it was foolish of her to think he'd remain chaste, especially after she, herself, had considered—if even briefly—accepting Hunt's not so subtle offer of a drink and more. "I thought about it. I really did. But no. I didn't. She wanted to, of course, even offered to switch shifts with a friend, hoping we'd… you know… tonight, but… I just couldn't. Despite my heartache and belief that you didn't feel the same, it was still too soon. And my damn feelings got in the way. Because she… she wasn't you. She wasn't who I really wanted. And that wouldn't have been fair to her… or myself. So I thanked her for the offer, but politely declined."

"So you didn't… not even once…?" hedged Kate, silently jumping for joy at the news, not that she'd hold it against him if he had. But it was nice to know that his love, though tormented as it had been at the time, had held him back from sleeping with the blonde stewardess.

"Nope," he sighed, and let out a self-deprecating chuckle. "I'm not even sure I could have even gotten it up if I'd wanted to. How pathetic is that?"

"It's not pathetic," Kate asserted, reaching out to caress the side of his face, letting her fingertips linger along his jawline. "Especially when you're in love with someone else."

He inclined his head, pursing his lips as he regarded her with a cautious expression. She let her gaze soften, tender and loving, allowing him to see just how much she cared for him and how touched she was that even when she had no claim on him, he still remained true. Kate relaxed her face, letting him see all of her—her hopes, her dreams, everything that she was, flaws and all, offering herself up to him.

"Do… do you have any plans for tonight?" he asked, tentative yet hopeful.

She pursed her lips and smiled. "No, not especially," she answered, shifting closer to him and wincing when a pain shot through her leg. Oh… damn! She'd forgotten about her twisted ankle.

Castle frowned. "Kate? Are you okay?" he asked worriedly, reaching hand out to steady her.

She bit her lower lip, cheeks flushing from embarrassment at the warmth that coasted through her veins at the simplest of touches from him. "Yeah… yeah, I'm fine," she reassured, nodding her head. "I just twisted my ankle running down the stairs."

"Why were you running down the stairs?" Castle questioned stupidly.

She gave him a pointed look.

"Oh," realization struck. "Sorry," he grimaced. "Here, why don't we get you back home and get you off your feet." He was already reaching for her arm to direct her towards his Ferrari when he stopped. "God, sorry, that was awful forward of me."

"No… not at all," Kate assured him. "And I'd like that. I'd like that a lot. We still have a lot to discuss, and my place would be best to avoid interruptions. But… I sort of just rushed out here without any real thought other than to stop you, so… all my stuffs still back in the bullpen."

"Well, what are we doing standing around here talking, let's go get it," Castle insisted eagerly.

Kate smiled, and looped her arm around his, using him for support as they walked back to the precinct. She noted his surprise when she didn't pull away when they entered the lobby. They waited by the elevator in companionable silence. When the doors opened, they stepped in and Castle pressed the button for the homicide floor with a little more vigor than was probably necessary.

As the rode the elevator up, Kate bit her lower lip and glanced at Castle expectantly. "You know… after all those declarations, I'm kind of surprised you haven't kissed me yet," she said.

"Uh?" Castle blinked, startled. "You mean… um… like right here."

She shrugged nonchalantly, eyes twinkling with mischief. "Why not?"

He smiled, and she smiled in return. "Yeah," he agreed. "Why the hell not."

And then he was cupping her jaw in his palm, and she was leaning into him, and their lips then met in one of the most amazing kisses she'd ever experienced. Kate sighed happily into his mouth, deepening the kiss, letting all her feelings out and not holding back. Castle made a little grunt when she pressed closer to him, his hands dropping to her slim waist, fingers curling into her hipbones. Kate was never so happy as she was right there, in his arms, her mouth fused to his. This was how it was supposed to be. She knew they'd probably face other obstacles, but at least now they'd face them together.

"Say it again," she whispered between them, pleading, breath coming out in heated pants, heart thumping profoundly beneath her breast. He gazed down at her with such a raw openness in his eyes that it stole her breath. "Please."

"Kate… I love you," he said it as if it was the simplest thing in the word, as if it were some universal truth that was irrefutable, the true depth of which could be heard in his voice. "I love you, Kate."

Kate licked her lips and flirted her eyes up to his. And this time, she was able to say it back, without hesitation or doubt, surrendering to the swell of emotions inside her. "I love you, too."

prompt from alwayswiththeshinyapples via castlefanficprompts on tumblr: After the events of S4 E20 Kate doesn't call Detective Hunt instead she is determined to find out what's up with Castle and runs after him only to find him sitting in his Ferrari, head in hands, no bimbo in sight.