Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.
A/N Each chapter of this story will be inspired to some degree by a song, beginning with the exquisite "All the Things You Are." I have a rich musical life, which is about 95 percent classical, 4 percent American Songbook, and 1 percent jazz. But last year Liv Wilder introduced me to the music of Brandy Clark, and recently directed me to the song "Love Can Go to Hell" from her newest album, which inspired me to start this story and which will be the jumping off point for a future chapter. Thank you for expanding my musical horizons, Liv.
"I'm so hot," Kate Beckett says, standing in the middle of her bedroom wearing nothing but a black lace bra and a matching pair of panties so skimpy that it hardly qualifies as clothing. "I am so seriously hot."
She gathers her hair in both hands and pulls it up and off her glistening neck. "I'm beyond hot," she moans, and falls onto her bed.
There's no one else there. She's not assessing her sex appeal, but making a statement of fact: she's beyond hot because several hours ago her air conditioner gave up the ghost, emitting a hideous metallic death rattle before wheezing its last. Since this is the eleventh straight day of humid, 90-degree-plus weather, there isn't an A/C to be had anywhere in the Northeast. Beckett is stuck with being sticky, and she hates it. She hates it particularly because she has the weekend off with nothing to do, and no one with whom to do it. Not a soul. Everyone she knows is busy, or away, or paired up.
Especially the last one. Lanie and Espo, for instance. The worst, though, is that other pair. Them. Yes, them. Him (Castle). Her (Gina). It's been more than a month since he'd left the precinct with that woman, sailed away to the Hamptons with his bottle-blonde publisher. Not sailed away, really, more like descended into hell in the elevator while she stood and watched. She was supposed to have been the one who went to the Hamptons with him, but everything had fallen apart. She'd broken it off with Demming and was on her way to tell Castle, but there he was, hand-in-taloned-hand with Gina. Another monumental bit of miscommunication, and now there's no communication at all.
It's been more than a month. "Don't kid yourself, Kate," she says to the faintly whirring ceiling fan. "You know exactly how long it's been. Forty-three days." She checks her watch. "And three hours and eleven minutes. Not that I'm counting." It's Saturday night, and she's feeling sorry for herself. She had dug a black hole this morning, jumped in, and stayed there all day, thinking of him, thinking of all the things they might have been. All the things he is to her. "All the things you are to me, Castle, and I never told you," she says. God, she loves that song. "All the Things You Are." She stares at the fan for a while, getting glummer and glummer, and starts to sing.
Time and again I've longed for adventure,
Something to make my heart beat the faster,
What did I long for? I never really knew.
She sure as hell knows what she longs for now, but it's too late. She'd keep on singing, but it's hard to do lying flat on her back when her nose is running and she's crying so hard that she's choking. The coughing forces her to sit up, and she forces herself to get out of bed.
So she's alone, so it's the loneliest night of the week. Blah blah blah. It's time for her to rejoin the human race. Get dressed and go out. No big deal. She'll just go to a bar for a drink. Nothing wrong with that. It's not as though she's some kid with a fake ID who's looking to get laid. Well, maybe. Is she? No. She just wants to have a nice drink in a nice place with nice air conditioning and a nice bartender. That's all. Not a cop bar either, where half the faces are familiar and everything smells of spilled beer.
What was that little place she'd read about? Over by the Highline, that opened last year? Had a joke in the name. Ah, I'll Take Manhattan, that's it. Does everyone there drink Manhattans? Maybe. Not her, though. She takes a quick shower, and puts on some light makeup and a short summer dress. It bares her shoulders and her knees, but it's just right. A little flirty, but not slutty. So what if she's wearing fuck-me shoes? They make her feel good. It's summer and she's blue and she'll be sitting down, so no one will see her feet anyway.
She needs a drink.
Because so many people clear out of town on summer weekends, she has no trouble getting a cab. She'd walk to the bar, but she'd melt before she was halfway there, and the A/C in the taxi is so good that she considers asking what it would cost to drive around all night. She doesn't, only partly because the cabbie has been talking nonstop to some buddy of his and she can't take any more of his commentary on his somewhat unsavory social life.
The interior of the bar is cooler than the inside of the cab, in every way, everything dark blue and gray and silver. There's a good crowd but it's not crowded, and whoever was in charge of the acoustics deserves a bonus because the noise isn't noise at all, but a low and pleasant buzz. Which is exactly what she hopes her drink will give her. The brushed-nickel bar is curved at the far end, and she takes a seat there. She's essentially in the shadows, so she can see others but they can't see her properly unless they're really looking. The bartender looks too young even to be in here, never mind serving, but when he gets closer she realizes that he's probably in his late 20s. He's cute, but a little too dimpled for her tastes.
"Good evening," he says.
"What can I get you?"
Good, no dopey conversation, just to the point. "Glenlivet, straight up, please."
"Be right with you." He's back quickly, and sets the glass in front of her. "I didn't have you pegged for a Scotch drinker."
"Yeah? What did you have me pegged for?"
"Me? A Sex in the City girl? Woman? God, no."
"Well, you know your single malt."
"Funny, 'cause I never drink it." She takes a sip, runs the tip of her tongue over her lips and the tip of a finger around the rim of the glass.
"Yeah? What do you usually drink?"
"Maker's Mark. Really I'm mostly a wine drinker, but I dunno, just wanted something with more punch tonight, I guess. I have a friend—had a friend who likes it. Loves it. Glenlivet. I've been thinking about him."
"Outta sight but not outta mind, eh? Sorry to hear it."
"It shows, huh? What gave me away?"
"I'm older than I look. I've got twelve years' sizing people up from the other side of the barstools. Plus, it's a pretty cold day in hell when someone who looks like you is in here alone. Don't worry, I'm not hitting on you." He holds up his left hand, and the ring on his fourth finger tells her that he's off the market.
"Well, it's hotter than hell out, so." She takes a healthy sip and looks down at her own unadorned hands. "Anyway. Don't let me keep you from your other customers."
"Not too busy in here tonight. The weather, mainly. People are home hugging their air conditioners."
"Tell me about it. Mine's broken." Another sip. "Not the only thing that's broken," she mumbles.
"That bad, huh? I'd offer to punch the guy in the nose for you but I'm not much of a fighter."
"I always thought I was, too, but this time." Sip. "Meh. Fight's gone out of me." She's quiet for a minute, then takes another sip. "He went off with her. That was that. Just left. See ya." She waves feebly and he gives her a sympathetic nod. She can't believe she's saying all this to a bartender, except the anonymity of it is liberating. It feels so good to unload, even a little—and for her, a little is a lot. This Scotch is sensational, too; no wonder Castle loves it. She takes another sip and, huh? Her glass is empty? She lifts it up. "I'll have another, please."
Every couple of minutes he comes back to check on her. She can't decide if she feels better or worse than she did, but when she's at the bottom of her second drink she says to the bartender, "He invited me to his beach house for the weekend."
"This would have been a good one to be there. I'm sorry it didn't work out."
"No, not this weekend. The, you know, holiday." She can't quite come up with the name. She can't quite come up with when she last ate, either, but it might have been half a piece of toast at breakfast. "Could I have another, please?"
He raises an eyebrow. "You sure?"
"What kind of a bartender asks are you sure?"
"One who's afraid you might have had your limit."
She puts her forehead on the sleek metal surface of the bar. "I am so pathetic." She picks her head up. "Do you have any coffee?"
"You bet. Maybe not quite as good as that Scotch, but better for you right now."
What a nice guy. Nice like Castle except neither one is available. When he brings her the coffee they chat for a while about nothing in particular. He tends to some other customers and brings her another cup. "Thanks," she says. "I remember the holiday," she adds sheepishly.
"Fourth of July, right? Last week."
"No. Before. Memorial Day. He invited me for Memorial Day. He said 'I promise, no funny stuff.' No funny stuff, can you believe it? I wanted that funny stuff, believe me. And I broke up with this other guy 'cause I realized he was just a place holder for this guy, you know? And I didn't tell him in time and there he went with that ex-wife. Sorry, I told you that before."
"Don't worry about it. I'll be back in a bit."
While he—Neil, that's his name, Neil—is at the other end of the bar she people watches in the mirrored wall behind all the bottles. She finishes her second cup of coffee and realizes that her head is a lot clearer. And then, holy shit. No. No. Not possible. She's here? At that cozy table for two which her date must have just left for the men's room or something because she's giving someone a cutesy wave.
Kate had been feeling better, thanks to Neil, but that's gone. She's plunged deeper in the black hole than she'd been when she was weeping over "All the Things You Are" at home on her bed. She steals another glance at the image in the mirror. Gina's dressed to the teeth. Sparkle. Make-up. A gold bracelet so heavy it's a wonder she can lift her arm. "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, you walk into this one?" she asks silently. "Why the hell aren't you in the Hamptons in your little bikini, having a drink by the pool?"
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. If Gina is here, the as-yet-unseen date is Castle. She can't stay here or they'll spot her. Maybe if she just turns a little, has her back completely to them, they won't notice her. If she positions herself so that she can still spy on them in the mirror, she'll be able to tell when they're not looking towards the bar and Neil can help her get the hell out. Through the kitchen, out a window, anything. Oh, God, here comes Castle, leaning over to whisper something in Gina's ear as if he hadn't seen her for days instead of minutes ago. She really can't stand to witness this.
Except it's like a train wreck, her own personal train wreck, and she can't keep her eyes away for long. What the hell? It's not Castle who just sat down! Who is it? Oh, a new writer, that's it. Gina must be buttering up some poor schnook of a writer, getting him to agree to bargain-basement terms on his contract. She's leaning over to him now and—what? She just kissed whoever it is, the not-Castle, in a very, very, very buttery way.
Kate turns around so that there's no way Gina will miss her. She can hold a glare longer than she can hold a grudge, and she has both now. "Look at me, you bitch," she says through teeth clenched so tightly that they hurt. "Come on. Look at me."
It doesn't take long. Two minutes, tops. And when Gina catches sight of her she's so startled that she splashes her Cosmo all over her dress.
A/N You can hear many terrific renditions of "All the Things You Are" on you tube, including ones by Frank Sinatra and by Ella Fitzgerald. My favorite is by Beverly Sills on The Tonight Show in 1973. Johnny Carson adored her and often invited her to be a guest. Sills was the rare opera singer who could pull off the non-operatic repertoire, and this is a great example.