Word Count: 1,362
Rating: M (Adult subject matter)
Disclaimer: I own nothing in the following work of fiction.
The precinct was quiet as I sat at my desk, Castle in his chair like always. It had been a month since we'd finished with Coonan and he was currently cooling his heels in prison awaiting his trial. The DA hadn't been able to talk him into giving up his employers, but for now having him was enough.
Slowly I was returning to an even kilter. I hadn't touched a drink or a pill in the time since Coonan's interrogation and while the nightmares were still there, they were becoming less crippling. Having work to occupy my time helped. I don't think our paperwork has ever been so complete and up to date. I still wouldn't be considered for field duty for a couple more months at least and as part of my 'probationary period' I was required to meet with a therapist a few times a week.
The sessions seemed to be helping. Once I had given up my show of frosty solidarity, I found the tolerant woman actually worth talking to. She didn't judge or reprimand me for any of my decisions nor did she pity me for what I had gone through. The quiet middle aged woman provided a neutral presence and offered opinions and suggestions only when asked.
Ryan and Esposito seemed thrilled to see me starting to get back to my old self. I wasn't there and I knew I still had a long way to go, but Rome wasn't built in a day. I would never be who I was before Castle left (I still couldn't bring myself to use the D word), but just maybe, with time, I could be a new, stronger someone.
Lanie still came by once a week to check on me, old habits die hard, but instead of pulling me out of a drunken stupor, she took me out to lunch and we chatted like we used to.
Even Alexis and I were growing closer. For the first time since the incident, I felt like I was doing what Castle had asked and taking care of his family. Martha was busy being wrapped up in her play and Alexis still had school, but we always found time to talk or meet up. Martha and I were planning to surprise Alexis in a couple weeks and make the trek to Boston to visit.
She was currently home for the weekend to celebrate her Grandmother's birthday and I wasn't surprised to see her name pop up on my cell phone display.
"Hey Alexis, what's up?" I asked, leaning back in my chair and smiling at Castle.
"Are you free later?"
"I'm done in an hour. I can meet you somewhere for dinner if you want."
"Actually would you mind coming over to the loft? I've got some school things to finish up, but I wanted to talk to you, while I was home."
I felt a flutter of panic in my stomach and Castle reached out to take my hand. Even on the mend, I hadn't gotten up the courage to go back to Castle's loft, well Alexis and Martha's now. As far as I had come, seeing all the places where we used to be together might just be more than I could handle at the moment. Yet there was only one way to find out. I had therapy tomorrow anyway.
"Uh- yeah. I'll be over in a little while."
Before she could say more than OK I hung up the phone. Castle didn't speak as I brooded over my decision. He was becoming less and less a fixture in my life; more for support on off days and bad nights which still happened every so often. I still didn't have the courage to let go completely.
With paperwork to keep my hands busy the last hour of my shift finished and I packed up my desk. Grabbing my coat off the chair, I walked out into the sunny afternoon. I hailed a cab instead of taking the train and a half hour later I was standing in front of his building.
"Go on then Scout," he whispered, nudging my shoulder gently.
"I just- need a minute," I murmured, sticking my hands in the pockets of my jacket.
Being in his home, his space would make everything real. Strange how after feeling the life drain from his body or seeing his casket lowered into the ground I was still able to hang onto a shred of denial. If I was perfectly honest, sometimes I expected him to walk into the precinct with a cup of coffee and tease me like any other day. But seeing the places where he used to work and we used to love each other would bring back any of the thousand bittersweet memories that I didn't know if I could handle thinking about.
With a nervous tremble I bit the bullet, so to speak, and walked through the lobby doors. The doorman waved, having recognized me from before. It was a sign that some things would never change. The hallways still looked the same and the ugly vase of fake flowers was still the first thing you saw off the elevator. His door was still red and it felt strange to knock after practically living there before.
"Kate! Hi," said Alexis, hugging me and moving aside to let me in. "How have you been?"
"Good. Busy," I shrugged as I stepped out of my shoes.
"That's good. Are you hungry? I ordered Chinese."
I wasn't really all that hungry, but I knew she still worried about me. The loft looked practically unchanged. The same furniture, maybe a few different knick knacks. His study door was open and I could see his desk and chair through the doorway.
"Come on in," Alexis said, leading me to the study.
His desk was currently covered with notes and textbooks, which Alexis hurriedly packed away.
"I actually wanted to talk to you about something," she said hesitantly.
I sat down carefully on the couch, noticing that nothing in the office had changed. The odds and ends on his desk were in the same place and the same order. Even the art on the walls was untouched.
"Here, you can sit here."
Nervously I moved to sit in his desk chair while Alexis pulled a box from a filing cabinet.
"My dad wanted you to have this."
She opened the flat box and set a crudely bound stack of papers in front of me. I looked at it, unsure.
"It's his last, unpublished manuscript. I haven't read it in full, but it's complete. This is the original draft. No one else has looked at it except him and I've seen a few chapters, but not the finished version. I wanted you to be the first," Alexis explained, kneeling down beside me and taking my hand. "I can't even imagine how hard this all must have been for you and I kept trying to find the right time to give it to you. Up until now I wasn't sure you would even accept it."
She was right of course, I wouldn't have. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. When you're in the midst of it, the feeling becomes like a living thing that molds and twists and takes over your life. It goes on until you barely recognize yourself. Denial and grief, a potent cocktail of emotions.
"I don't know what to say. Are you sure you want me to read this?"
"I am. Even if I wasn't, the dedication would be enough to convince me," she affirmed, patting my leg and standing. "I'll be out at the dining room table with my books. Come find me when you're ready."
I watched her walk away and shut the office door. With shaking hands I lifted the title page, Diamond Heat. The dedication was simple, but said so much and I felt a watery smile curve my lips.
For Kate. Thank you.
Castle stood from his couch, going to the door of the office.
"Hey Castle?" I said, turning to the first page of the manuscript.
"See you tomorrow."
A/N: Well that's all folks. Thanks for sticking with me. Thank you to everyone who reviewed. Hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing. I don't know where I'll be going next. Maybe back to my series. We'll see what happens. Adios for now! –April
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