A/N: Inspired by a prompt from a tumblr anon revolving around the recently released script and a few newly revealed lines from 4x01, Rise.
Takes place in Beckett's apartment, where she and Castle are working on the case.
"Without you there's holes in my soul...
I just need to know
That you won't forget about me"
-Don't Forget About Me, Cloves
"Everybody is gone, Castle."
Beckett ducks her head until the unwavering sting in her eyes begins to recede, until the crack in her chest doesn't feel so wide and raw and gaping.
She's exhausted, ripped to shreds on the inside from trauma that had pierced her chest, cut through her side, left her bleeding in the grass with a man who loved her pleading with her to stay. And all she wants - no, needs - are answers, a lead, something to point her in the right direction so she can end this, find justice for her mother and peace for herself.
Find what could await her on the other side of a wall constructed within her ribs, built up around her heart, keeping Castle, who sits diligently at her dining room table, going over what little they have so far in this black hole of a case, out.
She never thought she'd admit it, but she doesn't want him kept at such a distance anymore, doesn't want to wonder if he meant what he said to her the day of Montgomery's funeral, after the bullet had struck and he'd held her withering frame. She wants to hear him say it again; she wants to be ready to hear it again.
Could any amount of waiting ever prepare her?
Kate lifts her head, meeting the sad blue eyes, the frown carved into his mouth that tries to shift and rearrange with encouragement for her, but she knows his own heart is likely just as battered.
Even after a summer apart, a summer of radio silence that had instilled a hurt that has yet to recede in his eyes, he was still determined to help her, to be what she needs, and even when she's ready for his love, will she ever deserve it?
"Castle," she sighs, torn between desperately grateful and utterly terrified when he eases his chair back from the dining room table, starts towards her as if he's approaching a wounded animal, fragile and ready to flee.
She hates it, hates the awkwardness, the mutual ache, the way her ragged heart flutters as he stands in front of her.
"It's going to be okay," he murmurs, his hand twitching at his side, but he refuses to lift his arm, to touch her.
The disappointment floods her system.
"We're going to find the bastard who shot you. We're going to find the people behind all of this. We're going to get justice for your mother, for you," he promises her with such conviction, even though he knows just as well as she does that he can't assure her of any of that. "And I'll have your back the entire time."
Of that, she trusts in with certainty.
"Whether you want me around or not," he adds with a rueful twitch of his lips that is far more painful than comforting.
Her brow furrows.
"Or not?" she murmurs, stupidly.
He's trying so very hard to lift her spirits, to coax her away from the edges of a panic attack, and she picks up on the sole piece of sorrow in his speech.
But Castle merely shrugs. "You know what I mean. We should put this away for the night, you need some rest and Alexis is-"
"I'm sorry," she blurts, stopping him in his backtracking towards the table, zipping his mouth shut and earning the hesitant flicker of his gaze to her face. "I know I already said it, after the book signing, but I'm sorry for the summer, for not calling and making you wait, for-"
Kate fills her collapsing lungs with an uneven breath, trains her eyes on the edge of the table next to his hip.
"I'm sorry for forgetting."
The air around them goes very still, his anger a slow growing, palpable thing, the questions too, and she's too much of a coward to meet his eyes.
"Some things are better not being remembered," he murmurs, sending a spill of horror through her dilapidated chest, her gaze rising to him with building despair, ascending to the hard glare of his eyes waiting on her. "That's what you said in the hospital. Now I know what you meant."
She reaches for his arm when he moves to storm past her, her fingers snagging in his elbow. "Castle-"
He shakes her off, the clash of movement causing her incision scar to throb, but she forces the pain to stay off of her face, to fall beneath the dizzying acceleration of her heart.
"It's probably lucky you don't remember, better that way," he states, but his jaw is threatening to crack beneath the grit of his teeth he tries and fails to control. "I just didn't think you'd choose to forget me."
"I didn't," she argues. "I was trying to forget everything else from that day-"
"Yeah, we already had this conversation, Beckett," he mutters, her name a bitter curse on his tongue, the sharpness of it slicing through her.
"But I wasn't trying to forget you," she presses on. "I don't want that. I want - what I told you at the swings. I want this to be over, I want to - be able to say it back without a wall and a murder and so much hurt between us."
Her heart is pounding so hard it hurts, her hands trembling with the nerves of speaking truths she had never planned to tell him, at least not for a long while, not until she was truly ready.
But for the first time in three months, since she woke up in the hospital with her chest caving in and retreated to a cabin in the woods, Beckett is feeling brave. She closes the distance between them with only a few short steps, until she can look straight into his eyes with her heels on, read the misery and the heartbreak, the desire and the hope, the agonizing conflict.
So she clears it.
"I don't want loving you to be something painful, for it to be wrapped up in all of this, Castle. Just - I don't want us to start like this," she whispers, lowering her eyes to his chest, the plaid button down stretched across his broad sternum, a place that calls to her like a haven she has yet to gain access to.
"I understand," he mumbles, his voice gruff, heavy, but no longer so scraped raw with repressed rage. "And everything I said before still stands, I - still stand with you, but Kate?"
She lifts her head, her breath catching in her palpitating lungs for a heartbeat of a second when his hand cups her jaw, thumb smoothing along the concave hollow of her cheek.
"I may have a head start, but I already love you," he confesses on a murmur. "No matter what, that part's never painful."
He releases her with the smallest of smiles gracing his lips, but she reaches for his wrist before it can fall back to his side, clutches his hand in hers.
"I don't want any of it to be painful," she sighs, almost wishing that he would stop. Just stop loving her and have a chance at something better, someone better.
She almost wishes for that. Almost, but not enough to let him go. To stop loving him back in her own quiet way.
"I don't want you stuck waiting for me, miserable."
Castle shakes his head. "I won't be. The shooting, the summer - it's still fresh, but you're back, you're trying and that - it makes a difference, Kate. We're going to be okay, we'll work on the wall and your mom's case, and then…"
Her eyes involuntarily flicker to his lips, back to his subtly darker gaze. "Then?"
"You tell me when you're ready. In the meantime, I will be a one man construction crew, Kate Beckett. Mark my words," he mumbles, his voice finally finding the ghost of a familiar lightheartedness she once knew so well.
Kate nods, staring down at the hand clasped in hers, the embrace of his palm, fingers curled around hers, the not quite perfect fit that has warmth spreading like healing through her chest, soothing the ragged edges of vicious grief.
"You mentioned Alexis?" she inquires, biting her bottom lip in concern that she's kept him from his daughter, but Castle squeezes her hand.
"Yes, but she's not expecting me for another half hour. I can… stay, a few more minutes, if you want?"
She flexes her fingers, watches them slip through the spaces between his, and uses their intertwined grip to tug him forward. The rest of her forehead to his shoulder is innocent, the curve of his arm around her waist a comfort, and the mess between them isn't fixed, nothing completely resolved, but it's an improvement. Not yet right, but no longer so wrong.
Better. As long as he's there, it's always a little better.
"Knowing you want to say it back is enough for me, Kate," he murmurs, one final reassurance that he brushes along her temple, the touch of his lips tender, but infusing her with the strength she needs to breathe again. "Enough for now."