Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
If he weren't spending almost every waking minute working with Ryan and Esposito, trying to track down Beckett's shooter, he'd be upset. Except that he is upset. Hurt. Jealous. Furious. When he's working on the case, which he is at least twelve hours a day, he shoves his emotions down so hard inside that by evening they feel like four small cannon balls lodged at the bottom of his stomach.
Two weeks after Montgomery's funeral, Gina had begun pestering him for the final chapters of Heat Rises. Reminded him, needlessly, of the deadline that he had missed, of the terms of his contract.
After five days of it, she'd dropped any hint of civility. "I gave you some leeway," she'd said during that morning call, her voice steely. "More than enough. But I understand that Detective Beckett was discharged from the hospital quite some time ago and will make a complete recovery. There's no excuse for your not having delivered the rest of your manuscript."
"Dammit, Rick, you're out of 'buts' and 'waits.' It's two lousy chapters."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Gina. I'll try not to make them too lousy." He'd jabbed his finger so hard on the screen to end the call that he'd bruised it, then turned off his phone only to turn it on again to get in touch with Ryan.
"Hey, Kevin? Listen, I'm really sorry, but Gina has me by the short and curlies. I still haven't given her the last two chapters of my book, so I'm going to take today off to finish, okay?"
"No apologies necessary, Castle. Seriously. You don't have to be doing this with Javi and me. We understand–"
He cuts him off mid-sentence. "I do have to. I do. I do. Just please explain to Espo, and I'll be at the precinct first thing tomorrow with atonement doughnuts."
Ryan had laughed. "Those atonement doughnuts come with cinnamon sugar?"
"Okay, then. See you tomorrow."
Fourteen hours, two bags of potato chips, and more than half a bottle of Scotch later, he'd emailed the chapters to Gina, taken two aspirin, and headed for bed in the tee shirt and underwear he'd had on all day. "Fuck it," he'd said, as he'd landed hard on the mattress.
That was three weeks ago. "Fuck it" is pretty much his mantra now, except when he's working on Beckett's case. That has his full attention and passion. But as every possible lead evaporates and every angle flatlines, it's harder to keep up a front with the guys. But he does, mentally thanking his mother for the acting gene she passed along to him.
His mother and daughter have been at the Hamptons house for more than a month, and it's after work, at home in the empty loft, when literal darkness creeps in and figurative darkness pins him down. Gets him around the throat and all but chokes the breath out of him. He doesn't even know where Beckett is, except that she's not at her apartment. He knows this because he walks past it at least twice a day. There's never a sign of movement at the windows, no curtain blowing, no light on. No light on ever, even in a rainstorm. He'd stood across the street for half an hour last week in one hell of a thunderstorm, soaked, waiting for the flicker of a lamp or a shadow on the wall. Anything. But there had been nothing.
Where the hell is she? If he knew, at least he could imagine her there. Picture her on a deck somewhere, reading. Standing on a beach at the edge of the water, wiggling her toes in the wet sand. Instead, he's stuck with the gut-wrenching, unshakable memory of the last time he'd seen her, when she'd been in a hospital bed, paler than the institutional sheets she'd been lying on, paler than the bandage visible at the top of her institutional gown.
At the beginning, his rage had been directed almost exclusively at whoever pulled the trigger, and whoever paid the person to pull the trigger. It was obvious that they were two different people. Some of his anger and all of his jealousy had been reserved for Josh Davidson. But in recent days his internal storm had begun to change shape and force; the truth, he suspects, is that while love may be boundless, so may anger. His love for Beckett–the love that had remained undeclared until her blood was leaking through her dress blues into his hands–is undiminished, but bitterness and anger arrive close together, like thunder and lightning.
She'd said she'd call him.
He'd brought her flowers and while she was sitting in that hospital bed she'd said that she'd call him.
A few days, she'd said.
But after a few days it became a few more, and then more and more days, and then weeks, and fairly soon it could become a few months, and then what? Then fucking what? If they could just solve the case he could go on. Go on to another book, a different kind of book, not Nikki Heat, and maybe another city. Alexis will be out of high school in less than a year, it doesn't matter where he lives. He doesn't want to live in a place where he could bump into Beckett anywhere, doesn't want to pass all the crime scenes they'd worked together, doesn't want to fight the urge to walk by her apartment and ring her bell and run up the stairs three at a time because the elevator is so slow and bring her coffee.
Maybe he doesn't want to live in a city at all.
She'd said she'd call him and she hasn't.
It's Saturday, 43 days since her shooting, but who's counting? Besides him, of course. He's counting. That's another habit he has to break. It's officially summer. It's Saturday at 10:30 in the morning in late June. If things were different, he'd be having brunch now. He'd be in the Hamptons making brunch for his mother and daughter and Beckett, a happy family. He'd have proposed, and Beckett would have said yes. Except that the last time his daughter had talked about his partner she'd said, "She almost got you killed, Dad. Don't you get it? It's time to get her out of your system." And then she'd hung up on him.
He's alone in his Broome Street kitchen, hung over. Had he eaten dinner? He doesn't remember. He peers into the sink: no plate or bowl, no silverware. Opens the dishwasher door and looks inside: it's empty. Dinner, he now vaguely recalls, was liquid and 86 proof. He should take a shower. He should get dressed. He should do a lot of things, but he'll settle for coffee.
Grinding the beans makes his head pound, but it's worth it. The first hit of Jamaican Blue is Nirvana, or at least the suburbs of Nirvana. He takes another sip, and is relishing the third when he hears something that he hasn't heard in so long, that is so surprising–shocking, more like it–that he jumps, drops his mug, and it rolls across on the floor, miraculously unbroken. His head whips to the source of the sound: his phone, which is on the counter behind him. The sound is the opening notes of "Ain't Misbehavin'," the song that he'd chosen, a long time ago, to alert him that Beckett is texting him.
He reaches for the phone but yanks his hand back as if he'd accidentally thrust it into a flaming pit. He's damned if he's picking it up, or opening the text to read it. Not while he stinks and is wearing yesterday's underwear and hasn't eaten and looks like someone you'd run away from in the street.
Besides, she hadn't said, "I'll text you, Castle," she'd said she'd call.
What's she texting, anyway? An excuse? An apology? If that's the case, why doesn't she call? Because she's too cowardly to respond when he challenges her about her long silence? "I know you said you love me, Castle, but I had to think about it"?
Fuck it. That's right, fuck it. Fuckitfuckitfuckitfuckit. His mantra. So much better than "om." He retrieves the now-silent phone and turns it off, picks up the mug from the floor, and mops the spilled coffee with a couple of wadded-up paper towels.
Half an hour later he's clean and shaved and dressed. The forecast is hot and sticky but he's wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt because the Angelika, where he's going for a Kurosawa double feature, tends to be over air-conditioned.
He settles into his seat, grateful to be at least four rows away from another movie goer. He's looking forward to the breakfast on his lap–a bucket of popcorn–as Rashomon begins. A 61-year-old psychological thriller set in eighth-century Japan fits his mood. Until the mood is broken by a buzz in his back pocket. It's Beckett. Texting, again.
He'd turned his phone back on when he'd arrived at the theater because he's a father, and a father should always be available to his his child, even if his child is barely 17 and thinks she's an adult. He hadn't counted on Beckett. He ignores the buzz, but it returns later, during the closing credits.
A man, even a very angry man who is still hung over, can resist only so much temptation, even if he's seething at the temptress. He slips the phone from his pocket, clicks on his messages, and calls up the three from her.
First: Hi, Castle, I'm sorry I didn't call before. Hope your summer is going well.
She hopes his summer is going well? Oh, sure, best summer of his life.
Second: Please text me back when you have time. There's something I'd like to ask you.
There's something he'd like to ask her, too. He doubts that their questions are the same.
Third: I don't know if you're ignoring me or are mad, but I would really, really like to talk with you. It's important. Please.
He doesn't consider what he's going to say, just types and sends without thinking.
I'm ignoring you not because I'm mad, but because I'm furious. And my summer sucks.
He gets up from his seat and strides up the aisle. He can't stomach the idea of watching the second feature, Throne of Blood, now. Kurosawa's version of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth with blood on her hands, what was he thinking? He dumps his half-eaten–that's a first–bucket of popcorn in the bin and pushes the lobby door open. The heat hits him in the chest the instant he's on the sidewalk and he abandons his idea of walking home. He sees a cab approaching and hails it.
The first call from her comes when he's about six blocks from his building. The second arrives while he's in the elevator with Mr. Gottlieb, who is 94, has the mental acuity of a graduate student, and lives at the end of the hall. "'Ain't Misbehavin' '?" his neighbor asks before Castle can hit the decline call button. "Great song. I remember when it was new. I was 12 and sang it to my Ma all the time. Drove her crazy."
Under ordinary circumstances he would have laughed at the story, but he does muster a smile. "Nice," he says. "You had great taste even then."
He's getting a glass of ice water when she phones again. Third time, he thinks, and definitely not a charm. But this is torture he can no longer endure, so he answers.
"What," he says harshly, wincing a little at his rudeness.
"You said you'd call, Beckett."
"I, uh, I am. Calling."
"Yeah, well you said in a few days." He manages to stop himself before saying it had been 43 days. It's pathetic. He doesn't want to seem pathetic. "It's been weeks. It's almost July, for God's sake."
"I'm sorry. I know that's not enough, but I was sick."
"I'm the one who rode in the ambulance with you. I'm well aware that you were sick. Not sick, dead."
"No, no, I mean I got an infection. In the incision in my chest. I had to go to back to the hospital."
She had an infection? Jesus. He presses hard on his own chest. "Sorry to hear it. At least you had Josh to take care of you."
He can hear her breathing. Is it labored? It sounds labored. Is she still sick? Oh, God. His anger flies towards the kitchen window and breaks into a million pieces. Now it sounds as if she's crying and he doesn't know what the hell to do. For once in his life he waits.
"No. I was–. Actually, I was alone. I haven't talked to Josh since the day after you visited me in the hospital. We broke up."
"Oh." Oh? He gets this news and he says oh?
"A neighbor was bringing me groceries and saw that I looked terrible. She got my thermometer and said I had a fever, a hundred and three, and she called an ambulance. They took me to a hospital in Albany."
"Albany? Where the hell are you? Were you?"
"At my father's cabin upstate. Still am. I came back after five days, when I got released. Albany is the nearest place with a really good hospital."
"Your father left you alone in his cabin in East Jesus, New York?" He can hear himself yelling. He knows where Jim Beckett lives. He's going to go over there and kill him.
"Not exactly. I made him go after back to the city after a week. I was fine. I mean, I wasn't fine, but I was just in a lot of pain and I couldn't bear to have him around. I could take care of myself."
"Yeah, well it happened."
"Are you okay now?"
"Still walking like an eighty-year-old, but I'm doing a lot better. My Dad calls me about ten times a day. FaceTimes me so he can monitor me. That's what he calls it."
He's trying to picture an octogenarian Beckett. Even with his rich imagination he can't. Not at the moment anyway. He decides not to kill Jim. "He's a good father."
There's some faint noise in the background that he can't quite identify. "You got company, Beckett? I thought I heard a door opening."
"Just me, going out on the deck. Hang on while I get arranged on the chair."
It takes her time to sit down? God, almighty.
"Good. Good. Um, Beckett, you said you wanted to ask me something? That it was important?"
"Yes. I've tried to remember. On my own, you know? But I can't. And I don't want to ask anyone else."
"The thing is, I can't remember anything about my shooting. Nothing except kind of keeling over when the bullet hit me. That's it. I don't know anything and I need to know. Please, will you tell me?"
A/N From an intriguing prompt by Roadrunnerz: "What if Beckett really didn't remember her shooting and asks Castle to tell her everything?"