It's not the dark and stormy night that usually comes with epiphanies and reflections. It's not after a difficult case that's worn her down and makes him question humanity. It's not after a particularly heated argument or a close call. It's a calm day in the precinct. She's doing paperwork, and he's competing with Ryan and Esposito to see who can get the most paper 'basketballs' into the recycling bin. They're walking back from lunch, both of them enjoying the sunny spring weather after four days of rain. They've always walked close together, so she doesn't think it's anything special when he grasps her elbow gently.
But she realizes this is different when she looks up curiously, mouth posed to ask the question she no longer has to. Something is off. Not wrong, per se, because he just looks serious, not scared or anxious. Serious and determined and for a split second she wonders if it's about her mother's case. But he'd promised her the last time that he'd at least tell her when something came up. If something came up. She steps with him when he tugs her off to the side.
"I'm the gambler," he says to her softly. "I'm the one that takes risks, who makes a leap."
Her brow knits in confusion. "What?"
"You're not," he continues, ignoring her question. "You need assurances, proof, stability and guarantees. I can't give you those, not the way you want them."
"Castle, what are you talking about?" she asks, now completely and utterly mind-boggled. He's not making any sense, talking in riddles she hates because he never gives her the key to solving them. At least with her murderers they leave clues as to what they want, why they did the things they did. This doesn't have any clues, just cryptic wording.
"I'm talking about us," he says and she freezes. It's the one topic they've studiously avoided since she let him work cases with her again. That's when something shifted and he realized that maybe she wasn't as annoyed with him as she seemed to act. She knows this and she knows that in response, he's toned it down. They complement each other, help each other out and more. Even Agent Shaw had seen it.
But the FBI profiler had also seen through her. She didn't want to think that he cared because it meant things. It meant scary things, things that could get her hurt and leave her broken, two things she really wasn't sure she could handle again. She didn't do well with change, with people leaving and people in her life… well, they had a tendency of walking away. Both metaphorically and literally. And that was why she'd never let herself look past the superficial with him, at least not consciously. Because subconsciously, every time she sees him with Alexis, every time he allows her into his home and into his life, most especially when she didn't have her own home to go to, he breaks down her walls just a little bit more.
"There is no us," she replies finally, realizing she's been silent almost too long.
"But there can be," he argues back. "There can be an us, Kate and it can work."
"You don't know that," and the words are out of her mouth before she realizes she's just played right into his hands.
"No, I don't. Neither do you. And we'll never know. That's why I want to take the risk. I want to make the leap. We're good for each other, you can't deny that. We balance each other. I light up your days and you keep me from getting into too much trouble."
She can't help the quirk of her lips at that. He's exasperating when she's trying to keep him out of trouble but even she's noticed his distinct lack of utter and complete stupidity lately. And she's not blind to the subtle shifts in herself either. She smiles a little bit easier, laughs with the guys a little bit more, sees a lighter side of life.
"I want to give this a chance."
Before she can reply, he's pulled her against his body, wrapping a steel arm around her back the other behind her head as he kisses her. She's lost almost immediately in the idea of finally before her brain kicks in and reminds her exactly who she's kissing and their current locale. He lets her break away – and she's under no delusions that as strong and capable as she is, he could have held her there – and presses his lips together.
"We could do this," he tells her quietly.
Then he's gone and she's left in the middle of a New York street with half a day's work ahead of her wondering how her entire world was just tipped on its head.
It's late when the knock comes and he's honestly surprised to see who is on the other side. He knows her better than she knows herself and when he walked away from her hours ago, he'd known she was going to need time. She's a processor, she's careful, calculated, methodical and he'd known he was going to have to walk away from her. He'd spent the afternoon writing and re-writing the scene. His desktop now shows a number of word processor icons, both good and bad resolutions to the scene they are about to act out. He watches her as he pulls the door open and steps aside. She knows she's always welcome in his home so he doesn't have to ask or wave her in. She's twisting her hands in front of her and she still looks nervous and confused, but she's here, which he is very ready to count as something.
"What if it doesn't work," she says as he closes the door. "What if… what if our entire… whatever is the chase? What if once you've had me you won't want me anymore?"
"Kate," he starts, but she's very obviously not finished.
"What happens if I get invested and a few weeks or months down the line you find someone else? What happens to our partnership?"
Those aren't the really important questions and he knows she's too afraid to ask about those. She won't ask the things she really wants to ask, like how she's supposed to trust, given his track record, that he won't find something 'better'. Like how she's supposed to put herself back together if he breaks her. Breaking her is the last thing he wants to do when he's seen how much she's gone through, but it's not like he can make that promise. There's always the chance that it won't work and he doesn't have to tell her that.
"And what if it's not?" His voice is soft, calm, deliberate. "What if once doesn't get you out of my system but burrows you further under my skin? What if I can't get you out of my head and that's why Nikki Heat even exists? What if 'extraordinary' is only one adjective of many that I would use to describe you?"
He's stepping closer, slowly and steadily, making sure she sees his every step. She's a frightened rabbit, poised to run, and it's the last thing he wants her to do right now. "What if it could really work and you're too afraid to try?"
His hand on her cheek stops her words in her mouth. She's shorter than him in the flats she threw on when leaving her apartment and he looms over her as he meets her gaze. "I'm already invested," he tells her and because he's so close he can both hear and feel her heart jump and her breath catch. "I'm already invested, Kate. I wouldn't have written you into a whole book if I wasn't invested."
Her eyes are wide as they stare up at him, and he feels kind of blessed at how much she's showing him. She has a fantastic poker face, but he's always been able to tell her real feelings by her eyes. It's stupid and clichéd, but she can't hide things in her eyes. They tell him she's scared, terrified even, not really willing to risk her happy little existence on a risk. And he's under no misconceptions that he is exactly that, especially for her. His track record says he has no problem walking away, but she forgets that he has two marriages under his belt.
"I can't tell you we won't make mistakes, that we won't hurt ourselves, each other and people who may get caught in the crossfire. I can't give you guarantees that I'll be your one and done and you know that. You wouldn't be here if it was all that simple and easy, wrapped up in a nice little box." He knows that last part is true without any sort of acknowledgment from her. If it was easy, he wouldn't have had to walk away.
"I know you want promises, guarantees and reassurances, but I can't give them to you in good faith. I'd be lying if I told you it was always going to be sunshine and roses, that I'd never hurt you as long as I lived and I don't think you'd believe me anyway," he points out, his free hand coming to rest on her hip. Hers comes up to his arm, resting there and doing nothing more while her other hand grasps his wrist gently.
"Take a chance," he whispers when she stays silent. "Make the bet."
It's a few more minutes before she sucks in a deep breath and says, "I'm in."
Now, I know this isn't Whistler, but that particular Kate and Castle (not to mention Alexis) won't cooperate with me.
I have Bones to thank for this. Those of you who have seen the 100th episode will understand what I mean. If you haven't seen it yet and you're a Bones fan, you need to watch it. I don't want to give away spoilers, so I'm not going to tell you guys which part(s) of this are thanks to the Bones writers, but I can't necessarily claim pieces of this as my own.