Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink," he says calmly.
"Maybe it's lack of sleep, but what?" Kate asks from her perch at the counter, a mug of coffee in her hand, "I know that you can write in your head, but you're standing at the stove, not sitting in the sink."
"It's the first line of a great novel I found by accident recently. 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink'."
She yawns loudly. "I'm sorry. You're not boring me, I promise. What's the novel?"
"I Capture the Castle."
"Well, that explains it," she says, and laughs. "A book with your name in the title."
"You captured me, didn't you?"
"You're such a sentimental guy, Castle."
"I am. And proud of it. Anyway," he adds, pointing a spatula at her, "I'm trying to tell you a story."
"Sorry. No more interruptions from me. Especially if you hurry up with those eggs."
"I'm moving as fast as I can. You're not the only one in this room who worked up an appetite, you know."
"Oh, I know," she says, scorching him with her eyes.
"And don't look at me like that or this breakfast will burn and I'll be incapable of speech."
"Fine. You never want me to look at you like that, then?"
"I do. Just not now." He scoops the scrambled eggs from the pan, puts them on two plates, and adds some buttered toast. "Here. Eat."
"I'm glad you get the rye bread that has caraway seeds," she says several minutes later, swallowing her last bite of toast.
"Oh, please. The kind without does not pass these lips. So, you ready for your story?"
"It's about my writer's block. Former writer's block."
"The worst I've ever had. Agony. I tried everything to dig my way out, and nothing worked. Word association, character observation, you name it. No alcohol and too much alcohol; gourmet dinners and junk-food binges; exercise and sloth. And the whole time? I couldn't get you out of my mind."
She slides her hand across the gap and covers his. "I'm sorry."
"This isn't on you." He shakes his head. "The thing is, having you in my mind is what's made me able to write for the last year and a half. But then the summer happened, and—" his voice trails off. "Anyway, the first line of that book."
"Of I Capture the Castle."
"Well, yeah, but that was only one of many. First lines, I mean. When I was at my nadir, I left the Hamptons and came back to the city. I was in my office, staring at my blank screen, and for some reason 'Call me Ishmael' floated into my mind.
"Ah, Moby Dick."
"None other. It depressed the hell out of me at first. I beat myself up thinking I could never write anything remotely that good. But then I decided that reading other opening lines might jar something loose for me. I had a little game where I'd try to remember some, and reward myself if I was right."
She smiles, and squeezes his fingers. "Yeah? What was your reward?"
When he finally answers, he mumbles towards the floor, and she can't make it out.
"Sorry, I couldn't hear you. What was it?"
Staring at some unspecified point beyond her shoulder, he clears his throat and repeats what he'd said. "My reward was that I let myself look at a picture of you on my phone."
He might as well have cracked open her chest with a hammer and thrown hydrochloric acid on her heart. Her hands, of their own volition, fly to her face and cover her eyes and mouth. "Don't. Oh, God. I did that to you."
"Hey, hey, it's all right now. It's fine." He tugs her hands away and folds them inside his. "It is. Look at me. It is. And you didn't do anything to me."
She's struggling to control her shaky voice. "Um, so, what other lines did you remember? Besides the whale?"
"Oh, tons. A lot of bad ones, which made me feel moderately better, and a lot of great ones. And you know when they started to work?"
She shakes her head.
"Yesterday morning when I was shaving. Before I came into the precinct. I was running through yet another enviable opening line and for the first time since I'd started that exercise, it encouraged me rather than depressed me. Not because of the line itself, but because I was going to see you again. Work with you again. Have hope again. Kind of funny when you think what it was."
His expression has completely changed; his face is suffused with something—what. Joy. He looks so full of joy. "Yeah?" She still sounds wobbly, and feels that way, too. "What was it?"
"Graham Greene.The End of the Affair. Weird, right? Because you and I just started." And we're never going to end, he doesn't say.
"You think that?"
Panic surges in his chest, his own personal tsunami of insecurity. "We, you, we. This, this wasn't, we weren't." He stops and tries again, and with a detectable hint of desperation. "Aren't we starting something?"
He's still so unsure? How can he be, after what's happened? Oh. Because. And so she says, very gently. "No, Castle, we started a long, long time ago, didn't we? We just didn't get going until now."
She can see the tension go out of him as he smiles at her without reservation. "Yeah," he says, on a column of breath.
"So," she says, straightening up and holding out her mug. "Is there more coffee in that pot? Because I want to hear more about these famous first lines of yours."
"Not mine," he replies. "Other people's first lines."
"I know one of yours. 'It was always the same for her when she arrived to meet the body'."
"Whoa, you know that? Word-for-word?"
"If I didn't, after all the times I've read Heat Wave, I'd be pathetic. I probably know the whole first paragraph, at least."
"Really? Wait, don't do the whole thing, just the next two sentences."
She braces herself lightly on the edge of the counter and begins. " 'After she unbuckled her seat belt, after she pulled a stick pen from the rubber band on the sun visor, after her long fingers brushed her hip to feel the comfort of her service piece, what she always did was pause'." Beckett pauses, too, her head tilted to the left, her eyes closed but moving beneath the lids. " 'Not long'."
"Wow. Perfect recall."
When she opens her eyes she notes how wide his are. "No, this is different. The perfect recall I told you about lasts only for a few hours. This is memory, memory acquired from a lot of readings. Because I wanted to read it. A lot. And I want to know some of the lines you thought of."
" 'All this happened, more or less.' Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five."
"Makes sense you came up with that one, Castle. You love to work a little outside what actually happened, don't you?"
"I prefer to call that exercising my imagination."
"Tell me about I Capture the Castle. Why you like it."
He groans. "I was in a black hole, messing around on my computer and looking—yes, I confess, Detective—for books with Castle in the title. And there it was. The author's name is Dodie Smith, which faintly, faintly rang some bell. Turns out she was a British novelist who wrote the book The Hundred and One Dalmatians."
"As in the Disney movie?"
"Yup. One of my favorites—the animated one, not that horrible live-action thing—as you know. From a Cruella de Vil conversation we had at Hallowe'en. Anyway, I Capture the Castle really hit me because it's narrated by a seventeen-year-old English girl who's trying to be a writer and lives with her family in a tumbledown castle. And her father, get this, is suffering from horrendous writer's block. Had a huge hit of a book and since then hasn't been able to write a word."
"You sure you're not making this up?"
"I swear." He crosses his heart with a buttery fingertip. "But there was one first line that came back and back at me. Over and over."
"But it didn't help?"
"It made me think of you."
"Oh. I guess that wasn't good."
"You want to know what it was?"
She shrugs. "I guess. Yeah. I do."
" 'Justice? You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law'."
"Whoo," she pushes the hair off her forehead and swallows hard. "Hits a little close to home."
He can see that's she's battling not to cry. "It's William Gaddis. Brilliant novel, A Frolic of His Own." He leans across the counter and tips her chin up. "You know why I'm telling you all this, Kate? It's so you'll know that it wasn't literature that saved me. It was you."
And that's what makes her cry.
Three months later, when there's an early-autumn chill in the air, Castle zips up his carry-on. He's flying to London to promote the British publication of his new book, Naked Heat. Really. Not really. Well, he's doing four signings in three cities, as well as a reading, but that's not what's on his mind. What's on his mind is another book altogether, one that was written almost 200 hundred years ago. He hasn't told Kate. Hasn't told anyone, because he can't trust anyone to keep this a secret. His phone pings; it's a text from his partner.
"I'll be out front in five minutes."
"On my way."
He waits in the lobby until he sees her car coming down Broome Street, then steps onto the sidewalk and sticks his thumb out. "Going my way?"
"I don't usually pick up hitchhikers," she says primly. "But you have a fancy suitcase, so I'll take the risk. Don't try anything. I'm armed."
"Oooo," he says, sliding into the seat next to her after tossing his bag in the back. "Sexy."
"You'd better believe it," she snaps, and accelerates into the stream of traffic.
The ride to JFK is too quick. They've barely spent a day—or a night—apart since August second. "Promise me you'll miss me," he says, when he kisses her goodbye in front of the terminal.
"I don't want you to go, Castle."
"Bet you never thought you'd say that. I'll text you when I get there." He walks towards the glass doors, turns, and waves his passport at her.
At eight the next morning, London time, he texts her from the taxi on the way to his hotel.
"I'm here. Surprise. It's raining."
As he tucks the phone back into his pocket, he's startled to hear it ring. "Beckett? It's three in the morning in New York. Why are you awake?"
"My feet are cold."
"Put on some fuzzy socks. I'll be home on Friday night and warm up your feet."
"Just my feet?"
"All of you. I love you."
"Love you, too. Bye."
He survives the mini tour, in which almost every hour is scheduled. He'd made sure that he had a couple of hours to himself on Thursday afternoon, though, and when the time comes he shuts himself in his hotel room. He waits for the call, which he estimates will come around four. Sure enough, at 3:53 his phone rings. He'd love to be there in person, but he doesn't want to be spotted. Anonymity is key.
"Yes, this is Richard Castle. I'm ready, thank you."
Fifteen minutes later it's over, and his heart is racing. When he gets the word, when he's assured that everything is in order, he politely thanks the woman on the other end of the line, and makes a note of what to do tomorrow. He clicks off the phone, jumps from the bed to indulge in a one-man victory dance, then brushes his hair and leaves for a publishing cocktail party.
The London Times arrives with his room-service breakfast the following morning. On page five there's a story on yesterday's auction at Sotheby's: it leads with the news that an anonymous telephone bidder had paid a record price—139,250 pounds, or roughly a quarter of a million dollars—for a first edition of a certain book. "Worth every penny," Castle says, popping a piece of bacon into his mouth. He's already packed; as soon as he shaves, showers, and gets dressed he'll be on his to his last signing. After that, he's on to Sotheby's to pick up his newly-acquired, very old book, which he puts in his briefcase. No one, but no one, is carrying that but him.
In his first-class leather seat, he squirms all the way across the Atlantic and Eastern Canada. Can't keep his mind on the movies, or the bowl of macadamia nuts, or anything else. Finally, f-i-n-a-l-l-y, he's through Customs, papers cleared, and out into the cavernous, noisy hall where the driver from his car service is waiting. He'd told Kate not to come get him; it's rush hour, plus she could be working. Besides, he needs to make a couple of calls—the florist, the bakery—on the ride into Manhattan, and doesn't want her to overhear.
She wishes that she could have picked him up from the airport. It would have meant seeing him more than an hour earlier than she will now. She's known that she's in deep for quite a while, but being separated from him for the better part—the worse part—of a week has made her realize just how deep this water is. She slept on his side of the bed, with her head on his pillow. She washed her hair with his shampoo and briefly, insanely, contemplated using his after shave on her legs. Yesterday she'd been leaning back in his chair at the precinct, looking at the murder board, and Espo had said, "What the hell? You sittin' in Castle's chair? What is wrong with you?"
She hadn't even realized that she was there; that's how far gone she is. "Oh, I just thought I'd look at the case from a different angle."
A six-year-old might have believed that; her 36-year-old colleague hadn't. "Yeah. Right."
She looks at her watch. Again. Is shift over yet? She can't wait to get home. Home. Castle's loft. When had that become home? But it had.
He hears her key in the lock from the bedroom while he's buttoning his shirt; he'd had just enough time for a quick shower to rid himself of the smell of the airplane, which he hates. "Kate," he says, walking through his office; he can see her looking at the coffee table.
She hears her name, and that's it: she throws herself at him. "God, I missed you," she says, kissing him with six days' worth of longing.
"Wow," he says a minute later, her cheek pressed agains his. "Welcome home to me."
"What's all this?" she asks, stepping back an gesturing to the table where he has set a vase of roses, surrounded by cups and saucers, a tea pot, a plate of cakes, and another of scones.
"Tea. English teatime. You couldn't come with me, so we're having it here. Although the food and the flowers came from around the corner, not London. Still."
They both discover that they're ravenous, for food and for each other, and after they've eaten almost everything on the table, they race to bed. "Don't go away again," she says later, lying on top of him. "I can't take it."
"I brought you back something, though."
"No, but something very English." He extends his arm so that he can open the drawer of his nightstand, and takes out the package he'd hidden there a short while ago.
"What's this?" She rolls off him and sits up against the headboard. "Feels like a book. Is it the British edition of Naked Heat?"
"Nope. Open it. But be careful when you tear the wrapping paper."
"I never tear the wrapping paper, Castle. You're confusing me with you." She unties the ribbon and rolls it into a tidy spool, then carefully runs her index finger under the Scotch tape. "Oh," she says, her eyes gleaming. "Oh. It's Pride and Prejudice. You remembered. Remembered that it's my favorite Jane Austen." She runs her hand lightly over the cover. "But this is such an old copy. Where did you find it? I'm almost afraid to open it."
"Here." He takes the book from her. "You're right. It's a very old copy. The oldest. Eighteen thirteen. This is a first edition."
She gasps. Out loud. "No! Castle, it must have been a ton of money. You shouldn't have."
"I should and I did. Do you remember our first morning together, when we talked about first lines in literature?"
"Of course I do."
"I decided it was time to talk about this." He opens the book carefully and turns to page one. " 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.' " He puts Pride and Prejudice to one side, and takes her hand. "What do you think? Do you agree?"
She's staring at him, her lips slightly parted, her eyes bigger than he's ever seen them, but she doesn't say a word.
"Kate? Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she says. "Yes, I will." She crawls into his lap. "Yes. Yes. Yes."
A/N That's a wrap. Thank you very much for reading this. I'll be back soon, I hope, with another story.