"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." - Chinese Proverb
She has to wonder how many of the scratches on that particular square foot of the precinct floor are from the pieces of her heart as it shatters over and over again because the universe must hate when she tries to bare it to the man who matters the most. And she doesn't have the time or energy to pick up the pieces again so she sits at her desk as the elevator dings, quietly announcing his exit.
So she sits, dusting her fingers over her phone with the quick thought that fine, let me just call Hunt and get a drink with him anyway until she realizes that stooping to Castle's level won't solve anything. (Of course, his refusal to just talk to her isn't helping either.)
Kate signs off on the transfer of evidence to the district attorney's office and slides the lid of the box into place. With the boys gone to celebrate the close of the case, she's left with the responsibility of bringing the banker's box down to storage until one of the aides from the DA can come pick it up with the rest of the cases ready for prosecution.
With the box propped on her hip, she starts down the stairs. Each step toward the lobby, she gives thought to Castle's behavior and each time her heel hits the concrete, she gets more pissed. By the time she reaches the lobby to cross over to the separate set of stairs down to the evidence room, she's ready to tear his head off.
And at that moment, she catches a glimpse of that too-bright red shirt pacing just inside the metal detectors, his phone pressed to his ear..
"Castle," she snaps, getting his attention immediately. "Need you to come with me."
"I don't have time, Beckett," he hisses. "My car was towed."
"How unfortunate. But I need you to come double sign me dropping this box down in evidence so if you can maybe pull yourself away from this crisis for two minutes, I'd appreciate it."
Castle hangs up with the towing company and stalks after Kate toward the staircase.
"This couldn't wait until tomorrow?" he asks, the bite in his voice only fanning her anger.
She swallows the retort in favor of swiping into the electro-magnetic lock for entrance to the evidence room, placing her foot against the door for him to go past her into the darkness. "I don't know, Rick," she says, the hard consonants of his name sharp on her tongue. "Can justice for a young girl wait until it's more convenient for you?"
He mutters under his breath as he walks past her, his shoulder brushing against the width of her chest as he goes.
Kate flips the light switch, waiting as the rows and rows of metal shelves holding the afterlives of victims become illuminated. She takes a moment, feeling the familiar weight of their stories settle onto her shoulders before she moves forward, letting the door swing shut.
Castle waits for her at the second locked cage, impatience pulling his shoulders up to his ears but she ignores the attitude to type her code into the lockbox. She leads the way down the aisles, scanning case numbers to find the right shelving unit for her newest addition to the underground memorial.
"How much longer is this gonna-?"
He doesn't have a chance to finish the question when the hum of the fluorescents quiets and the lights go out.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" he shouts, spinning to face her as if the sudden darkness was her fault. "What the hell, Beckett?"
"Oh yes, because I have the ability to shut off the power at will," she snarks back, already turning right down one of the rows toward the place where a storage closet should be.
"Where're you going?" he asks.
She lets his voice echo in the basement without a response until she hears him storming back the way they came. It takes two minutes of standing there by the storage room before she hears the rattle of the cage as he shakes the door followed by a string of curses. Kate drops the evidence box at the doorway, putting her hand to the knob to gain entrance to the storage. Inventory was just completed at the precinct and she knows candles are one of the items every storage closet is required to have so she makes her way along the shelves until she feels the smooth wax of the slow-burn candles.
When she emerges with her arms filled with the alternate light source, the pack of matches wedged in her palm, she runs headlong into Castle, one of the candles falling to the floor.
"Sorry," he murmurs, bending to pick the candle up.
The quiet apology startles her, the moment of her old Castle shining through in the dark. "It's okay," she whispers back.
Kate slides down the concrete wall, tugging her shirt back into place as she snaps a match out of the little book. She strikes it against the side until the light flares into existence, touching it to the base of the wick. The candle flickers when she pushes it to the side.
He places another in front of her and she repeats the gesture, letting him arrange the light around them. Waves of flame keeping them in a semicircle of warmth against the wall.
She stretches her legs out in front of her, toeing her heels off so they clatter outside their ring of light. "You gonna tell me why you've been so pissed at me?"
Castle growls, stalking away into the shelves of the dead for a minute before returning to her. He sits, five feet between them but it feels like miles. "I'm not pissed at you," he says finally.
"Real convincing there," she snarks. "What with the cold shoulder, the refusal to talk to me, driving bimbettes to my crime scenes I never could have guessed you were angry with me."
"No, Castle," she interrupts. "I thought we were moving toward something but two weeks ago, you fly off to Vegas and come back with a flight attendant draped all over your arm."
"My off-duty actions are none of your concern, Detective."
She takes a shuddering breath, holding her hands still in her lap. "I thought… I thought you were waiting for me."
His fist hits the floor, the echo making her jump. "Why is it all about you, huh? Why do I have to twiddle my thumbs until you decide to cut me loose instead of keeping me around with my unrequited love to validate you?"
Kate curls her legs up, her head tucking on top of her knees. "Unrequited love? Castle, I -"
"I heard you," he spits, his anger crackling like the wicks of the candles. "In the interrogation during the bombing case. You told that kid - that no one - that you heard me in the cemetery but you lied to my face again and again and again."
He's back on his feet before she can track the movement, stalking around the ring. "And I get that you didn't want to hear that I loved you but Jesus Christ, Kate. At least have the fucking decency to tell me you don't want me around anymore rather than stringing me along for a year."
The tears pressing at her eyes are unexpected and unwelcome guests but she refuses to show how deep the words have cut her.
"And you have nothing to say to that?" he snaps, spinning so his shadow dances in the flame. "Figures."
She swallows the ball of guilt and grief lodged hard in her throat. "You're wrong," she says quietly, nudging one of the candles with her fingertips.
Kate turns her head up to look at him, the light distorting his face. "You're wrong."
"Well, by all means, clarify this for me," he says, sitting again.
He pulled no punches so she gathers her thoughts and follows suit.
"I didn't expect to live through that shooting." She hears his intake of breath but pushes through. "When I woke up, it was more of a shock than getting shot. And then every time I tried to think about you telling me that you loved me, it all came rushing back. I don't know how many of my panic attacks that summer came from trying to separate your words from my PTSD." The same adrenaline flutters in her veins but she keeps talking. "So I avoided it. And I know that hurt you but I didn't mean to."
Kate chances a look in his direction and finds him watching her carefully.
"Talking to my therapist has helped me work to figure out how to think about you without reliving the shooting. And I've been getting closer to being better, I swear." And oh, she wants to reach over and grab his hand.
So she does, shifting closer and touching the back of his arm. "I'm trying to be better for you. To be worthy of you."
He stares and Kate slowly feels those traitorous tears returning so she goes to take her hand back until his fingers curl around hers, stopping the motion.
"I just… I want you to know the reason," she explains. "It wasn't fair to keep it from you but it wasn't because I don't return your feelings. I wouldn't hurt you intentionally and I'm sorry that I did it unintentionally."
His hand drifts up to cup her cheek, turning her head to face his. "I'm sorry, too, Kate," he murmurs before touching his lips gently to hers.
It's everything that first dimly-lit kiss wasn't. Quiet and subdued in the candlelight, not the fierce, rolling wave of lust in the alley.
Her forehead tips into his, her lips resting on his jaw. "I'm sorry I lied."
"And I'm sorry I was such a dick lately," he returns.
She huffs out a laugh, scooting closer so her hips press tight to his on the cold floor. "How long you think the power's going to be out?"
"Tough to know," he muses. "Why?"
"I think I've got a date tonight. Want time to get ready," she winks.
He laughs, shaking his head at her. "Awfully presumptuous of you, Beckett. Does the guy know about this date?"
"I hope so. Even though I'm still a little angry about how he's been acting in the past, I think it might be one of my best dates yet."
"In the spirit of honesty," Castle says, "I should admit that I'm still a little angry too."
Kate sighs. "That's fair. But we can figure this out, right?"
"Partners, Kate. We can get through this."
Two hours after they get busted out of the evidence room's electromagnetic locks by a team of maintenance workers with crowbars, she knocks on his door in a dark jeans and a cream sweater.
And a slow-burning candle in her hands, the flame flickering onto the red enamel of his door.
"Think one hundred and twenty hours is enough time for our date?" she teases as she steps inside the apartment only to find every surface of the place covered with candles.
"Yeah," he sighs, taking the emergency candle from her hands and placing it on the side table in order to pull her in for a kiss. "I think we've got enough light for the evening."
Based on a prompt from the Castlefanfics Prompt Challenge: Season 4 - Candles