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 in an interpretation of the origianl 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, defamtory or in any way factual
AN: This is marked as angst and drama for a reason. Please do not read if you're not a fan of those two genres.
"My beautiful proof lies all in ruins."
Pale moonlight drapes over the back of the couch, a cool, silvery blanket for the too warm June night. Kate sits in the middle of it, knees pulled up to her chest, her chin resting on the angular peak. Stars twinkle and dance in an eons old ballet outside the window and she stares up at them, unseeing. Lost in the memories she calls a curse but would never willingly give up.
Her arm moves without her permission, the right one unfurling from around her shins and reaching toward the coffee table. The weight of the phone feels familiar in her hand even after so little use and she manipulates it with ease, swiping at the screen and pulling up the keypad. She deleted the number from her list of contacts long ago but her fingers find the keys unerringly, typing in the magic sequence that will connect her to him again, if only digitally. If only for a moment.
She doesn't count the rings. Doesn't want to be aware of how long it takes him to decide whether or not to pick up.
The sleep-rough sound of his voice almost makes her hang up. Too many memories, the good knotted so tightly to the bad that she can't pick them apart, can't separate his loving whispers from his angry accusations.
"Kate? Are you there? Are you okay?"
She hears the rustle of sheets, the creak of a floorboard. Her heart hammers against her ribs.
"Kate?" Panic creeps into his tone and finally she answers.
"I'm here." She takes a deep breath, as deep as she can, her lungs expanding almost to the point of pain. "I'm here."
"Are you okay?"
No. She's not. She hasn't been okay in a long, long time.
"I'm fine," Kate says, the lie tasteless on her tongue after so many tellings.
Silence hangs between them, crystal clear and heavy.
"Are you drunk?"
Kate looks at the wine glass on the table, far too full to be used as an excuse. "No."
"Then why -"
"There are no clouds," she blurts out, cutting off his question. She can't take more of his questions. More of the 'why' and 'what the hell were you thinking' and 'Jesus Christ, Kate, would you just talk to me?'. "I can see the stars. The moon."
A sigh comes over the line and she closes her eyes. Too many sighs. Not enough words.
"You're at the cabin." He knows where she is, where she goes when the air in the city gets hot and muggy, pressing her down until her knees buckle and she runs. He used to come after her.
Kate hums. "It's cooler up here."
Cooler. Closer. Farther. She doesn't really know the reasons she comes to this rickety old shack in the middle of the woods except that here is better than there. Better than being surrounded by the reminders of all the ways she failed. All the things she's lost.
"The breeze off the lake," he murmurs.
Kate hears the rattle of wheels from his end of the line and the memory comes to mind far too easily, him sitting at his desk, elbows propped up on the cherry wood as he hung his head, unable to look her in the eyes when he told her it was over. Her stomach clenches, the meager volume of wine she drank churning violently.
"He'd be four soon," she whispers, her hand fisting in the hem of her oversized maroon shirt. His shirt. The one she stole and never gave back. "In two weeks."
"Four," Kate repeats, her brain trying to conjure up the image of what he'd look like now but only coming up with flickering memories of incubators and tubes. "I wonder what kind of party he'd want."
"Pirates," he says, the answer so immediate she wonders if he's thought about this before. If he sits and pictures all the milestones they'll never reach, the memories they'll never make.
No. She doesn't need to wonder. Of course he does. She can't stop it and in her heart she knows he'll never be able to either. It's why they're here, in different houses on opposite sides of the state.
"Come on, Kate. Our son? Of course he'd love swashbuckling adventures."
They had a son.
For one week, they had a baby boy, his tiny, broken body beautiful even through the tubes and wires.
"I think he'd like spies. Like his namesake."
They had jokingly argued about names from almost the moment the test came back positive. Lists had been made, overflowing with ideas both serious and silly. Once they'd found out it was a boy, it got even worse. Brutal cuts and fierce debates had left them with a final selection of five possible choices, three of hers and two of his.
But sitting in her wheelchair next to the incubator, watching her husband pet their son's downy hair with one finger as he whispered words of love and encouragement to him, she had known. All the bickering and bets had been in vain. There was only one name for their son.
Ian Richard Castle took his last breath cradled between the bodies of his parents, one tiny, perfect hand wrapped around his father's pinky.
"Maybe pirate spies then," he offers and Kate chokes on a watery laugh.
"The best of both worlds."
A long silence fills the space where all their words used to be and then she hears him whisper. "The best of both of us."
Yes. The best of both of them.
And when he went, he took it with him.
Tears form in the corner of her eyes and Kate makes no effort to hold them back. They travel well worn paths over her cheeks, gathering in the hollow between her collarbones. He used to kiss her there, drinking at the pool of her sadness until he couldn't anymore. Until the weight of their combined grief and anger brought him to his knees in surrender.
"He had your eyes," she sniffs, bottom lip trembling.
"They would have changed," he argues for the hundredth time.
"No," Kate insists, needing him to stop fighting her on this. She knows. A mother knows. "He had your eyes. When I see him - When I dream him, he still has them. Wide and blue and kind. Full of laughter. Love."
"Kate." The anguish in his voice cracks her chest open. "I can't -"
"I miss you," she whimpers, all of it pouring out of her now, all the things she works too hard to keep inside, to forget and ignore. "I miss you, Rick. I miss him and I miss you."
"I know." The hollowness in his voice makes her ache. He used to speak to her with so much warmth and love. And now - Now they're this. "I miss you too, Kate. But I can't."
"I know," she repeats, giving his words back to him. They've been here too many times. He can't live in the wreckage of their loss and she - She can't find her way out. "I know."
"I'm sorry," he whispers, voice cracking. "I want -"
"Me too," Kate breathes when he stalls out.
They both want so many things. Things they can't have. Peace. Each other. Their son.
"I should let you get back to sleep," she says, fingers clenching tight around the phone. "It's late."
She hears him shift, the leather of his office chair squeaking. "I'm awake," he says and her heart flutters. "I'm here. I'll stay right here, Kate."
She shouldn't let him do this. Shouldn't take his comfort. Not when she knows that she'll wake up on this couch tomorrow with a crick in her neck and a fresh ache in her heart. But she's selfish. Always has been when it comes to him. She'll take what he's offering her and tuck it deep inside her chest, let the warm glow of what they used to be carry her through until it starts to flicker and fade. Until she ends up right back here, empty and alone and aching for what she can no longer have.
"Okay," Kate whispers, letting her head fall to her shoulder.
She listens to the sound of his breath and her eyes slip closed. If she stays still, her own chest barely moving, she can almost make herself believe. Believe he's there with her. Believe that she'll wake up in the morning and things will be different. Believe that one day, in some distant and sunny future, she'll be happy again. Whole.
Sleep tugs at her and Kate curls against the back of the couch, phone tucked between her head and the cushion. Her wedding band hangs loose around her finger and she brushes the worn metal with the pad of her thumb, timing the strokes to the beat of her heart. Slow, steady breaths fill her ear and she sinks into it, gives herself over to the bone-deep exhaustion. She's teetering on the edge, about to slip over when the pattern breaks.
"I love you, Kate."
The corners of her mouth curl up and she falls.
Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.
Once again, a big thank you to Kate for reading this over and scolding me about contractions. Much appreicated.