Disclaimer: As always, all things "Castle" belong to Andrew Marlowe and ABC.
Author's Note: I admit that "Eye of the Beholder" has never been an episode I liked much so I decided to fix it. Also written as an experiment of sorts in which I started out with no plan but just decided to change one line in the episode and see what happened from there.
What Is Supposed to Be
Today was not going to be a good day.
Kate already knew that and it wasn't even 8 a.m. yet.
She hadn't slept well, she had the beginnings of a tension headache building behind her eyes, and she'd slightly burned her fingers this morning by splashing her scalding hot coffee on them in her rush to leave her apartment.
Plus, she had an early morning meeting with Dr. Burke, which was never her favorite way to start a day.
Oh and as the extra cherry on top, she had to look forward to an entire day of dealing with Serena Kaye. Of watching Castle swoon over Serena.
Kate took another drink of her coffee but then grimaced. The coffee she made for herself some mornings when she didn't want to wait until she got into the precinct never tasted as good and today's, in particular, tasted bitter.
It wasn't the coffee's fault, a voice in her mind asserted, and she scowled. Okay, so it might not be the coffee's fault but it was the easier scapegoat.
"Kate? Good morning. Come on in."
Kate followed Dr. Burke into his office, setting her coffee down on the side table, but didn't bother to sit down. She normally never stayed seated during these sessions, always paced, and today of all days she didn't feel up to acting calm.
Burke's office was 12 steps wide. She'd measured it out in her fidgety perambulations in past sessions, eight steps to get from the door to her usual chair, an additional four from her chair to the window.
Three steps from her chair to the bookcases that lined the back wall. A wall made up of bookshelves that always reminded her of Castle's office in the loft. Today it tugged at her heart and she abruptly pivoted away from the bookshelves, back to her chair and then to the window.
"So, Kate, what's on your mind this morning?"
"Serena Kaye," she blurted out without thought, almost spitting out the woman's name. And then inwardly winced. If the goal was to sound like a normal, rational adult, she was already failing. Ugh.
But as always, Dr. Burke didn't react by so much as a flicker of an eyelash. "And who is Serena Kaye?"
Kate released a frustrated sound. "Oh, she's an insurance investigator who forced her way into working on my current case."
"Mm, I see. I take it, you are not pleased to be working with her?"
She threw him a narrow-eyed look. Had she sounded pleased? "No, definitely not."
"And why is that?"
She was too… blonde. And too hot.
The words popped into Kate's mind, ridiculously, and she shoved them away. It had nothing to do with Serena's looks, or even Castle's reaction to her looks; it was her smugness, her reluctance to share information, to follow Kate's lead when this was her case, damn it, and she was the lead detective on it.
"She's an uncooperative, cocky, stubborn know-it-all," Kate bit out.
"But she is good at her job?"
"Yeah, well, Castle seems to think so," Kate blurted out bitterly. Hanging on every word out of Serena's mouth, eagerly tagging along where Serena went. Following Serena with his eyes.
"And that bothers you?"
What the hell was Dr. Burke's problem with asking obvious questions today? Castle was her partner, supposed to be on her team. He wasn't supposed to be mooning around after some interloper insurance investigator, going after the shiny new distraction rather than doing the real, nitty gritty police work. "Yes, of course it bothers me."
It was about her work, she told herself. Castle was her partner, supposed to be working with her, not being distracted by some busty blonde they'd never set eyes on before yesterday.
"Because he's supposed to be…" In love with me.
Kate dropped heavily down onto her chair like a puppet who'd had its strings cut as the words rang through her mind, all her protests, her attempt to focus on the work aspect of it stripped away by the inadvertent truth, at least to herself.
He was supposed to be in love with her—but maybe… he really wasn't. Maybe he'd only said the words because he thought she was dying… maybe he'd gotten over it, gotten over her, in the long months of silence this summer.
She'd really thought, believed, that he'd meant it but maybe… she'd been wrong. Just like she had been before, when he'd asked her to go to the Hamptons and then replaced her with Gina.
But the way he looked at her, the way he smiled at her, no, she had to believe he still loved her. (And she tried not to think that some part of that might be because she didn't want to face what it would do to her if he didn't.)
Dr. Burke shifted in his chair, sat forward, his fingers steepled as he rested his elbows on his knees. "Ah. I see."
He did? Wait. Shit, had she said that out loud? She hadn't, she couldn't have—oh shit, she had.
Today was really not her day.
She hadn't meant to say that, hadn't meant to say that word again in connection to Castle for… oh, ever. Not to Burke. If—when—she next said that word again in the same sentence as Castle she wanted it to be preceded by the word 'I' and followed by the word 'you,' and addressed exclusively to him, when her wall was down, when she could finally be ready to dive into it with him and tell him everything.
Not now. Not yet.
She didn't want to talk about this.
Yeah, that was going to work, an inner voice commented sarcastically. Just throw something like that out there and expect Burke not to comment on it. And she and Serena Kaye were going to become bestest friends.
Kate took an overly large gulp of her coffee and then coughed, trying to buy time. She felt Dr. Burke studying her but steadfastly avoided looking at him, focusing on the carpet in the office instead with as much concentration as if she could decipher the secrets of the universe in its bland pattern.
"You said that Castle told you that he loved you."
Kate shut her eyes, one hand automatically fluttering up to press against her chest, cover up the scar. "Yes," she managed to choke, the word barely above a whisper.
There was a brief tortuous silence and then he went on, again with his usual, absolutely measured tone, "You have not talked about it since."
She wasn't sure if he meant that she and Castle hadn't talked about it or that she hadn't talked about it with Burke—but then again, what difference did it make since both were true?
We kiss and we never talk about it. We nearly die frozen in each other's arms and we never talk about it.
She inwardly flinched, again, at the memory of Castle's accusing words from that terrible night in her apartment.
And they still weren't talking about it. Anything to do with their relationship, not really.
As if… nothing had changed. Nothing had happened.
As if… what he'd said hadn't been… everything. As if he wasn't everything.
"Why is that?"
"Because… it's complicated," she finally answered lamely.
"Why is it complicated?"
"You know why it's complicated," she retorted. It was a cop-out, she knew that, barely above 'I know you are, but what am I' in terms of repartee but it was all she had at the moment, so there.
Dr. Burke, demonstrating again that he might not be fully human, didn't react to this display of petulant evasion, only responded patiently, "Explain it to me again."
She lifted her coffee cup to her lips again in a transparent attempt to stall but for once, barely tasted the liquid. And then she bounced to her feet, pacing again to the window and then around her chair to the bookshelves and back again. "I… had a boyfriend still," she began with what was easiest. She had still been with Josh at the time (although the way she'd dragged out her relationship with Josh at the time didn't paint her in the best light either. She ignored that commentary.) "And I wasn't ready to… deal with it. I needed more time."
"Mm." Kate had never realized that such a neutral sound of response could be so nerve-racking. But after a moment, Burke continued. "I gather from what you've said that you want Castle to be in love with you."
Kate bit back a snort. It was an odd thing to say but an even sillier sentiment. Was there a sane woman in the universe who wouldn't want someone like Castle to be in love with her? She couldn't imagine it. Castle had his flaws, his impulsiveness, his irritating man-child tendencies, but he was in basically every respect, the complete package: smart, kind, funny, generous, loyal, a devoted son and an adoring father. (And hot, don't forget hot, the baser part of her brain inserted.)
And more personally, of course she wanted Castle to love her. Castle's love was… the best thing that had ever happened to her, the greatest source of happiness in her life. His words had been the only bright spot in the midst of agony, had given her hope, something to hold on to. And even now, when she was cowering in her apartment, when she startled awake from a nightmare with a scream caught in her throat, she thought of him, imagined him, and that helped. (It was the only thing that helped, it seemed.)
"And you view this Serena Kaye as a threat because you return his feelings and are worried that he will move on."
Ouch, did he have to put it so bluntly?
Because of course Kate was afraid of that and she was jealous of Serena, jealous of the woman's confidence, jealous of the fact that she could flirt with Castle so openly without any of Kate's hangups and cowardice. Jealous when she really had no right to be. She wasn't Castle's girlfriend; she was just his partner at work, who couldn't get her act together, couldn't be honest with him, kept him waiting.
Jealous and… selfish too—she flinched at the harsh word—because she wasn't ready to give him what he deserved but she didn't want him to be with anyone else who could either. Too selfish to let him go.
"Kate, you say that you weren't ready at the time. What is it that's still holding you back?"
"I want… to be more, to be better." More than the broken person who cowered inside her apartment some nights at the sound of a siren. She wanted to be better, reasonably whole again. Better for him because he deserved it, deserved someone who could be honest with him.
"Kate, wanting to get better is commendable but it is not a necessary pre-condition to a relationship. There is no right order to these things, no rules to follow. If you honestly feel you cannot be in a relationship right now, that is entirely valid and it is up to you but you should not feel that it is somehow required of you to wait until you are completely cured or whatever personal goal you have set for yourself."
"It's not that." It wasn't, was it? "I just… he shouldn't have to deal with my issues. It's not fair to him."
A faint frown flickered across Burke's normally impassive expression. "I see. Has Castle ever said anything to make you believe he agrees with this?"
For the first time during the session, a faint smile flickered across her face, warmth glowing in her chest. "Of course not. He always says I'm extraordinary."
Except he didn't know how broken, how damaged she was. Her smile faded, the warmth abruptly extinguished at the insidious voice of her own insecurities.
"Don't you think he means it?"
"He does but he doesn't know about… any of this," she waved a hand in a lame gesture to indicate the office as a symbol of all she was still trying to work through.
"Kate, the fact that you are still trying to overcome the trauma you've suffered, not just your shooting but starting with your mother's death, is not a reflection of your worth. It should not be something you judge yourself for nor is it something anyone else should judge you for. It is not a sign of weakness. We are all human and it is in the nature of humanity that we all need help sometimes. Do you fear that Castle will think less of you if he were to know that you are still trying to recover?"
She felt an irrational flicker of irritation in Castle's defense. "No, of course not. He would never."
Dr. Burke sat back in his chair. "I see. Now, our time for this appointment is up. Kate, it is not my place to tell you what to do or how to live your life but I want you to consider that in many ways, being able to be honest both with yourself and with the people who are important to you is part of the process of becoming better."
She hated the process. Hated the waiting. Hated the fear and her own stupid self for being so damaged, for not being able to just get over this.
"I will see you next week, Kate."
Kate managed not to grimace and forced a polite smile instead. "Yes, thank you. Have a nice rest of the day."
It was only at the end of sessions that Dr. Burke unbent enough to smile. "You too, Kate."
Again, Kate bit back a snort. Yeah, the chances of her actually having a good day were pretty much nil. Because now, after having her insides flayed raw, she got to go into the precinct and watch Castle fawn over Serena. Watch Serena flirt with Castle.
For a wild crazy second, Kate wondered if she could just call in sick or something before rationality reasserted itself. She was in the middle of a case and she never slacked off work like that.
And if that meant spending a day or two (or three—oh god, please let them solve this case before then), watching Castle and Serena flirt with each other, well, that was what she got for lying, for keeping him waiting.
~To be continued…~
A/N 2: Apologies for the lack of Castle in this chapter.