Written in Our Scars

It's in the stars
It's been written in the scars on our hearts
That we're not broken just bent
-Just Give Me a Reason, written by Pink, featuring Nate Ruess

post ep XX/XY 8x01 and 8x02

He closes the front door. Touches the wood with two fingers, his heart like a stone at a memory he thought, once upon a time, he would cherish. It only wounds.

He bows his head and pushes away, moving for the kitchen to brutally flip off the stovetop. He yanks the pan from the burner bare-handed. The pain is deep, and welcome, and he grips the handle tighter as he dumps everything into the trash can, feeling his skin melt to the metal.

The pan clatters in the sink and Castle flexes his hand, turns blindly for the darkness of his office. He intends a Scotch, primarily (and he does know this) because she hates to smell it on his breath when they're not both drinking, flashbacks from her father. He pours a drink with his stiffening hand, knocks it back, but it does nothing to loosen the hard knot in his chest.

He finds himself pulling out his phone before he knows it, calling up the Find iPhone app without a second's thought. He signs in with cold fingers, waits as the compass spins back and forth searching. Searching. He pours two more fingers of Scotch and drinks that too, watching the screen.

The list of devices he's connected to shows up at the bottom, the map of the city above. He ignores his mother and Alexis, focuses instead on the KBex phone.

He named it that, back when he plugged all of their phones into his laptop and they solemnly agreed to never go off the map again.

Bitterness chokes his throat. He can't help but remember the way he reached for her in the living room and she flinched back, not wanting him to touch, wanting those boundaries reestablished.

She knew he could win her back if he only he could touch her.

The map resolves. She's in a cab, he thinks. (She's not walking, wherever it is, not forcing herself to endure block after block, miles of walking through bad neighborhoods. That means something, the fact that she's not punishing herself.)

That means something.

Bracken doesn't know her; he knows her. He's her husband, and the twist of her lips as she asked for forgiveness has already worked its way deep, a thorn in his lion's paw, forgiveness granted but not acceptance. He's her partner.

She left the front door open.

That means something.

Rick jerks to his feet and heads swiftly for their - the bedroom, rakes his eyes over the dresser. Watch is gone. Earrings are here. Bracelet she snagged out of evidence with its shiny diamonds - that's here too. Glinting.

But her rings are gone. Wedding and engagement.

The breath leaves him a rush and he sags forward, hands on his knees, the bite of agony in his palm.

It means something. It all means something.

He didn't go after her, and how many times does it take before he learns that lesson?

She has her engagement ring. He proposed to her knowing full well how difficult and frustrating she is, how stubborn. He said, didn't he?, that he's had to scratch and claw for every inch with her.

She has her rings. She left the door open after her. She begged for his forgiveness.

She hasn't unchained her iPhone from his; she wants him to know.

She always leaves clues. She did when her AGT team went down and she had to follow protocol; she left clues blatantly, brazenly, daring him to follow. Even if she doesn't know she's doing it, she's still doing it.

She wants him to chase after her.

He has always followed. This will be no different.

He is, after all, stupid enough to go with her.

He sends his first text while he's in a cab, tracking her movements. When I came back to the motel after getting us a car, you were crumpled in the hallway, blood streaking along the wall, and I thought you were dead. But I picked you up, and I carried you out of there, and I drove us out. I took us out. I can do it again.

When the driver lets him out at her old apartment, the one she supposedly was renting to a cousin (allegedly, and now these are words he has to use, this conditional sense), he sends his next entirely-too-long text: When you posed as Elena and I could only follow, I knew, and dreaded, that it would end badly, and it did, with Vulcan Simmons, with an executioner in the woods. It goes so badly, Kate, when we've been separated. Bracken's hitman saved your life because of the strength of your convictions - knowing right from wrong - where I would've let him die. You saved his life, and he owed you a debt. Don't ignore your convictions now, don't be blinded by circumstance and forget the one thing that holds: us.

He has her key, still has her key, of course he does. She knows he does, because when she gave all her keys to the cousin, she said it would be good to have a backup. It makes this easier, but it also makes this right.

He unlocks the security door in the lobby and steps onto the black and white tiled floor, memories assailing him once more just by the smell of the place.

When you were shot at Montgomery's funeral (do you know how it guts me to have to distinguish that now? the first time you were shot as opposed to this last time), I showed up at your bedside with flowers and my heart in my throat, wanting only for you to let me sit with you, let me be there, let me keep watch. Instead you disappeared, and you broke my heart, and eight weeks doesn't compare to three months, but I wish we would stop comparing.

He knows he's playing dirty, but he also knows that one of the first portals into her heart is through his words. Keep showing up, and keep talking. His words have permanently resided in her heart since before they ever met, so he's counting on them now to go nudging around, prompting and reminding, wounding but also binding up.

He mounts the stairs, his heart pounding with effort and concentration, the utter absorption of knowing she is at the other end of the hall, behind that door.

When I see your scar, when I touch the contours of that marred skin between your breasts, it bears witness not to pain but to how you come back for me, again and again. Once after that summer when you showed up at my book signing, but so many times that year, one after another. How you offered pieces of your heart back to me on those swings, for me to hold, for me to keep guard over. How you gave me the hope that you wanted this too. How you told me your stories and what grief and joy have done to you, buoyed you, made you. How you promised without promising, loved without speaking the words. And my hope now is that the new scar in your side will be the place I reach out to touch so that you will believe, once again, in us.

She opens the door before he can knock.

Her face is streaked with tears, eyes puffy and red, her phone clutched to her chest. Her gun in the other hand. "You can't," she cries. "I can't."

"It's okay," he tells her softly, sliding a foot into the doorway to keep his forward momentum going. The place looks so wrong with all the strange furniture. "It will be okay. I'm your husband; you're my wife."

She shakes her head wildly, and he sees the black hole in her eyes - the dark edge of a panic attack she can't stave off any longer. "I can't - I have to figure this out before I do something I can't take back. I have to get this out of me, Castle."

"Okay," he soothes. "Okay, but-"

"Please," she gets out. "I can't - I have an emergency session with Burke, but I can't drag you down with me. You - have a family."

He is careful not to catch her, hold her too tightly than she can bear, but he does cup the side of her face. She flinches. He doesn't care. "You are my family." He leans in and kisses her forehead. A mewl rips out of her chest and he feels the echo of it struggling in his own. "But I won't. Not tonight. Burke in the morning, fine. You're still wearing my ring, and I still have keys to this place. You said you can't. And I said I trust you. But, Kate, trust me."

"If they kill you because of me-"

"Not tonight," he reminds her, shaking his head against the strangled sound in her throat. "We won't do this tonight. I'm just going to sit with you. In the darkness. I'm going to keep watch because you have Burke in the morning. Trust me. Partners."

"Someone is out there, and I'm a target if I do this, I will be a target - it never ends, I can't make myself stop-"

"Not tonight," he says, more sharply, gripping the back of her neck. Her eyes flare wide, lust pours into the darkness. "Not tonight." Regret swims through him, but she's not herself, and he's not either. "Invite me inside before you have a panic attack in the hallway, Beckett."

Her shoulders slump, as if the last name has given her grace, and she steps back, her hand still clawed around her phone.

He walks inside, two fingers pressed to her hip to guide her before him. He shuts the door, locks it, and turns around to find her standing before him, all those old walls in place. Or trying to be.

One stiff wind. One word from him-

Not tonight. She has Burke in the morning.

But until then. "I'm going to chase you down, all over again, Kate, if that's what it takes. Court you, seduce you, annoy you-"

Her lips twist, a terrible grief that catches its claws in him as well, but no. It has to mean something. She left the door open, she talked to him before she ran, she has her rings. She's seeing Burke in the morning.

"So partners. I will be here, fighting for you. This is where I make my stand."

She flinches and presses her hand over her eyes, but he meant it like that. He will die for this, die fighting for this, for her, just as Montgomery said in that hangar.

In a hail of bullets.

"I have first watch," he says. And he takes the weapon from her fingers.

She lets him.