Ain't That A Kick In The Head
"Tell me quick, oh, ain't love a kick?
Tell me quick, ain't love a kick in the head?"
- lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Things had been different around the precinct since her return. It was the little things, not easily spotted. It took her about a month to figure it out. Ryan's gun—the one Jerry Tyson had stolen—had been used in a crime, and it was eating the younger detective up. He felt responsible, as if simply by losing the weapon to Tyson made him complicit in the crime itself. Kate didn't notice it at first, yet Castle was feeling the same, but since he wasn't a cop, Ryan—who was focused on his own misplaced guilt—and Esposito, even herself, failed to notice the impact the case had on the writer.
Kate had spent more time with Ryan during the case, wanting to support her colleague and friend, that she hadn't notice Castle's absence when normally she would normally the lack of his presence would have been felt strongly. When realization finally hit her, she felt ashamed at her narrowed vision, blocking Castle out of her mind so she could focus on reassuring and supporting Ryan through the case. She knew how deeply 3XK's departing words had affected Castle, and she should have remembered that when Jerry Tyson's name first popped up in relation to the case. But she hadn't. She had focused entirely on Ryan, and how it affected her fellow cop, because that was all she knew. And Castle, though he worked with them on cases, wasn't a cop. Not really. So he couldn't understand the guilt Ryan felt.
But she'd been wrong.
He knew all too well. And she ignored that.
The guilt and shame chewed at her insides. What kind of partner was she when she couldn't even recognize the turmoil her partner was in? What made matters worse, what caused her chest to tighten all the more, was the fact he was not just her partner, but was also the man she loved. She had yet to tell him that, but it was the truth nonetheless.
After the case was wrapped up, wanting to make amends for not recognizing his struggles with misplaced guilt, Kate gave Castle a call when she couldn't find him around the bullpen. He usually waited to go home until they'd talked. But he was nowhere in sight. That was one of the little things she should have noticed. Castle wasn't always around, waiting for her like he usually did. She just hadn't noticed it until now, when his absence was glaringly obvious.
He didn't answer.
Her heart clenched worriedly. Castle had told her how he felt responsible for not realizing Jerry Tyson was 3XK until it was too late, how Tyson had taunted him with that. Kate was concerned with where that misplaced guilt might lead him to. So, grabbing her jacket and bag, she rushed out of the precinct, heading to the only place she could think off where Castle would go after a difficult case.
The Old Haunt was buzzing with activity, much livelier than she had anticipated, the bar almost crammed with customers. Craning her neck, Kate quickly spotted Castle near the back. His presence was like a magnetic, and she was unable to resist the pull. It was something she'd struggled with since the day they met. He'd been an egotistically jackass, but even she had to admit she'd been attracted to him from day one.
At first, it was just lust, which she could easily suppress. But the longer they spent together, the more she got to know the real Castle, the one hidden behind that playboy public persona, Kate started to develop genuine feelings for him. They had many missed opportunities, none more stinging than when he went off to the Hamptons with his ex-wife after she'd broken up with Demming so she'd be free to accept his invitation. And when he came back, she was with Josh, and he was with Gina. But then, he wasn't with Gina, and she… she was still with Josh… hiding, unwilling to admit she was falling in love with a man who was not her boyfriend.
She weaved her way through a group of middle-aged businessmen standing around the front bar to get a better view of Castle. But when she did, she stopped dead in her tracks. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped down in shock.
Sitting at the bar with Castle, with one hand resting comfortably on his knee, was none other than Lanie Parish. Kate's heart pumped wildly as she observed the closeness between the medical examiner and the writer. They were speaking in low voices and sharing understanding looks that made Kate's gut twist uncomfortably. Her brow furrowed in confusion, and her lips formed a flat line as she watched their exchange with an envious gaze at the obvious comfort between the two as they talked, shared looks, and little touches.
It was all too intimate for Kate's liking.
That's when all the little odd things over the last month since her return began to fall into place. Unlike before her shooting, Castle would disappear during lunchtime. He'd always return with a cup of coffee for her, so she'd just assumed he went back home to spend time with his mother or daughter. It suddenly dawned on her that when she'd called Lanie, seeing if her best friend wanted to grab a bite to eat or had any new info on the case they were working, the call would go unanswered or straight to voicemail. Other similar instances started to click into sharp focus. Hell, she'd even arrived at the morgue early one morning to have some girl talk with Lanie, only to discover Castle was already there. She'd merely assumed he'd had some sudden insightful idea and had rushed down to run it by Lanie before telling her, and neither had corrected her assumption when she'd asked them what they'd uncovered.
It was all so obvious now. She should have seen it.
Kate swallowed, feeling her gut churn with both confusion and uncertainty. Had something happened while she been away on her three-month convalescence at her father's cabin? Had her lie and absence resulted in his feelings changing? He had seemed especially annoyed and irritated at her when she showed up at his book signing. Had she misinterpreted they're discussion on the swings?
And Lanie. She couldn't believe her best friend. Her brow lowered and her lips turned into a frown. Lanie had spent years urging Kate to acknowledge and act on her feelings for the writer. Had Kate's lack of action open the door for Lanie to make a move?
Kate couldn't hold back the rising tide of jealousy as she watched them. She narrowed her eyes and all but growled in frustration and anger over the sight of her best friend embracing Castle, her arms wrapping around him in a lingering, intimate hug. But she wasn't willing to make a fool of herself in front of such a large audience. So, Kate drifted back into the crush of happy people, drinking and socializing, and made her way out of the Old Haunt, steaming with indignant rage.
It wasn't fair. Kate pouted like a spurned teenager as she stomped up the stairs outside. Sure, she had no real claim to Castle, but she thought they had an understanding. Castle was hers. He was off limits. Early in their friendship, Kate and Lanie had made a pact never to date either the other's exes or someone the other was interested in. It was one of their top ten rules. She couldn't believe Lanie would do this to her. Out of everyone, she understood just how complicated Kate's relationship with Castle was. And Lanie knew, even if Kate never voiced it, just how crazy she was about Castle.
Reaching the sidewalk, Kate cross her arms over her chest and let out an exacerbated huff. She stalked back and forth, fuming over the unfairness of it all. Sure, she'd spent almost a year dating Josh, but that relationship had never been going anywhere. It had just been a place where she could hide from her real feelings, feelings she had been unable to deny, at least to herself, when Castle declared his love for her when she'd been shot. But she hadn't been ready to reciprocate, despite the fact she returned those feelings. She was a mess, and needed to get better, for him, for her… for them. Kate thought she could handle the work if it meant she'd have him at the end. But if that was no longer the case, if Lanie had swooped in while she was off recovering from a bullet wound to the heart and stolen him from her, Kate didn't think she'd survive.
Turning on her heels, Kate let out a halting gasp when she nearly collided with someone as they emerged from the stairs leading up from the Old Haunt's entrance.
"Oh… Hey, sweetie," Lanie smiled brightly. "I didn't see you. Were you going in for a drink? I was just leaving, but I wouldn't mind another shot."
Kate swallowed and glanced over Lanie's shoulder, searching for any sign of Castle. Lanie frowned and arched her neck to look behind her, brow furrowing as she wondered what had her friend so agitated.
"What's up, sweetie?" Lanie asked, placing a reassuring hand on her arm.
Kate flinched, pulling her arm back and glaring at her 'friend'. "What's up!?" she snorted in reply. "Really? You're just going to stand there and deny it."
"Deny what?" Lanie kitted her eyebrows in confusion.
"You know what!?" Kate snapped, jabbing a finger at her. "I should have known. All these years, all your prodding. It was all an act. You just wanted him for yourself, didn't you?"
"Whoa, where's this coming from?" Lanie held up her hands in a defensive manner.
"I saw you," Kate growled. "You and Castle. How long did you wait after I got shot to make your move?"
Silence followed, and Kate stood there, chest heaving with righteous indignation as she waited for an answer. Only, the response she got wasn't the one she expected. Lanie laughed. Loudly. She shook her head, and her eyes sparkled in amusement, all at Kate's expense. Kate felt her face grow hot with embarrassment. She'd been played the fool, and now she was acting like one.
"Oh, Kate," she shook her head. "You've got it all wrong. Castle and I are not…" she paused, reaching out to grab Kate's shoulder for support as she laughed all the harder. Shaking her head, she straightened and brushed her hair from her face, a bemused smirk on her lips. "We're just friends, Kate. It's strictly platonic, believe me. He's cute and all, and if I wasn't with Javier, and if I didn't know you were secretly crazy about him… maybe. But as it stands now, nah," she shook herd head. "I appreciate our friendship, his and yours, to mess it up like that."
"How… how'd this happen?" Kate stammered out, to confused to ask anything else.
"While you were gone," Lanie said with a shrug, as if it was obvious. "Castle and I… I don't know, we sort of bonded from our shared grief and worry over what happened to you. And you didn't make things any easier by not calling. Hurt him more than me, but I've known you longer, so I understood. We both love you, sweetie… in different ways, of course, but it just helped, I don't know… to have someone to lean on and talk things out."
"But… I saw you…," Kate babbled, almost incoherently as she gestured down the stairs leading to the Old Haunt.
Lanie shook her head and cast Kate a pitting look. "What you saw was two friends comforting one another," she said. "Rick's just had a hard couple of days. He was feeling neglected and ignored because he 'wasn't a cop' and 'just didn't understand'." She paused and sighed, placing a reassuring hand on Kate's arm. "Look, sweetie, I get it, sometimes it's easy for you to get tunnel vision and block out everything else. But… damn… it really hurt him how you guys dismissed him, saying he couldn't possibly understand because he wasn't a cop. That's what we were talking about in there. He needed a sympathetic and friendly ear. And since I'm not a cop either, but work alongside you guys too, I understood how he felt."
"God, Lanie… I never thought of it that way."
"I know," Lanie replied sadly. "But it's the truth. We're not cops, but still part of the team. You guys just forget that sometimes. Javier's guilty of that as well. I'm not entirely surprised. Not like Castle was. He couldn't understand why you guys acted like that, especially considering the three years he's spent by your side. He may not be a cop, but he thought he was still part of the team."
"He is," Kate insisted. "God, Lanie. I feel terrible. For jumping to conclusions about your relationship with Castle, and… and about not noticing just how much this case affected him as well. He deserves better. But I can help it. I just… I… I—"
"—love him, I know," Lanie finished, giving her a pointed look. "You should tell him. I've really gotten to know Castle over the last three months. He's a great guy, Kate. A better man that we sometimes give him credit for. And he loves you. Deeply."
Kate swallowed, dipping her head down and wringing her hands together. "Did… did you know he told me that he loves me?" Kate asked in a soft, timid voice. "I told me when I was shot. It… it was one of the last things I heard before I past out."
"Yeah, he told me," Lanie inclined her head, her eyes glazing over sympathetically, whether for her or Castle, Kate didn't know.
Kate went on nonetheless, "I… I really didn't have many things worth living for… but… Lanie, knowing he loved me, that… that gave me a reason to fight to survive… to live. It gave me strength during those long months out at my father's cabin, when all I wanted to do was give up."
"I'm not the one you should be telling this to," Lanie interjected, giving Kate a soft and understanding, but pointed, look.
"I know, I know," Kate bobbed her head, her throat clenching with emotion. "It's just… complicated." She winced as she said the word, knowing it was an overused excuse at this point." I… I lied to him, Lanie. He thinks I don't remember him telling me he loves me."
"Oh my God, Kate, why would you do that?" Lanie rolled her eyes in disappointment. "It really hurt him that you didn't remember. He didn't blame you, of course, thinking it was because of the trauma of being shot. But… God, Kate, if you knew how many times I had to support him why he cried and sobbed over you…," he voice trailed off as she shook his head. "Damn, girl… it wasn't easy being his shoulder to cry on. He may not be all ripped like Doctor Motorcycle Boy was, but he's all solid man. And he'd been holding all that emotion in for too long. He needed an outlet. It pained me to see him so grieved." She huffed in annoyance. "Not that I'm entirely surprised, but what were you thinking?"
"I don't know, Lanie," Kate couldn't help but go on defensive. "I had just been shot, for God's sake. And… I was still with Josh at the time. I was such a mess, still am… obviously. I didn't think it would be fair."
"And now?" Lanie asked, crossing her arms over her chest. "Do you think it's fair to string him along like this, and not even acknowledge his feelings."
"But… but I did," Kate protested. "I met him at his book signing, and we had a talk. We reached an understanding."
"Did you?" Lanie asked, quirking up an unconvinced eyebrow. "I know you, Kate. And I know Castle. Did you two actually talk it out, or did y'all just talk in subtext."
Kate let out a sigh, and dropped her head in defeat. "Subtext," she confirmed with a groan.
"I love you, sweetie, I do," Lanie said in a reassuring and sympathetic voice. "But I love Rick, too. He's my friend. You both are. And I don't like seeing you two like this. So, Kate… you've got two options here, either you go down there and tell him the truth, and finally jump his bones, or you cut him loose, because trust me, you two can't keep riding around in circles like this, you're going to run out a fuel. He's crazy about you. And you're crazy about him. The rest is just… superfluous."
Kate carded her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes as she inhaled a deep breath, contemplating all that her friend had said. Her blood pressure had leveled out now that she knew Lanie wasn't a threat to Castle's heart. Her brain was less muddled, no longer clouded by jealousy. She could think straight, logically.
Lanie was right.
It was true that her life was a mess right now, but Castle had always been a bright spot, a shining beacon of light in the dark. With him by her side, Kate knew she could weather any storm. There was no point waiting for the perfect moment, because such a thing didn't really exist except in fairytales. Life was made up of moments. And she had to stop sitting on the sidelines waiting for those moments to come to her. She had to make them herself. She had to own them. She had to take charge of her life and shape it with what she wanted.
And she wanted Castle.
"You're right," Kate declared with a decisive nod. She hugged Lanie. "Thank you, Lanie. I'm glad Castle has a friend like you. And I hope you two stay close, even if I end up monopolizing him most of the time." She pursed her lips, and smiled, a mischievous glint sparking in her eyes. "Because I plan on monopolizing a lot of his time, if you get my meaning."
"Oh, I do." Lanie grinned, returning her embrace. "And don't worry, girl. I'm not going anywhere. Both of you are stuck with me," she promised, nudging Kate back. "Now, get down there. I'd really like it if my two best friends were happy."
Kate smiled, and gave her a nod, before stepping back and turning towards the Old Haunt. She screwed up her courage, marching down the stairs, and hopefully towards her happily ever after.
A/N: Probably not entirely what the prompter was looking for, but this is what the characters wanted to do.
prompt from an anon on tumblr: I've always wanted to read a castle and lanie friendship fic. I mean they both experienced Kate dying and lanie with her cpr, how about when Kate comes back, lanie and castle have become closer, leaning on each other for support, lanie giving him advice, a surprising friendship, and it's only later that Kate realizes this when they both happen to disappear the same days during lunch time and she finds them together. Does this lead to jealous Kate? Or where?