There and Back

Ten: And One Step Forward

Kate had faced a number of terrifying things in her life.

She'd faced down criminals. She'd met mob bosses head on. She'd chased murderers in killer heels. She'd survived her mother's murder – twice, if you include both the physical and psychological aspects – and she'd survived her father's alcoholism. She survived the Academy. She'd survived having Rick as a partner. Hell, she'd survived prying press and the flashbulbs of paparazzi.

Yet, as Rick walked her down her hallway in the wake of the after party for the premiere of Heat Wave, Kate found she could barely breathe.

Maybe it was the fear that she'd had too much to drink and too much time to think. Maybe it was a fear of knowing that what she was sure would come out of her mouth would irrevocably change their relationship.

And she knew the conversation was coming. She'd known for a while that for them to really move forward, they would actually have to address the past.

So when they made it to her door, Kate faced him.

He was grinning from ear-to-ear because they'd had a fantastic night and an affectionate one, if the constant nearness and frequent touching was any indication. But the grin dropped off his face at the serious look on hers.

"You walked away."

The words were out before she really even processed them. There was a part of her that couldn't believe she actually wanted to have this conversation now. There was another part of her that couldn't help itself. Because for all intents and purposes, despite the press, and the prying eyes, they had acted like a couple. All night. And as much as she'd known for a while that they were inevitable, she knew there was no reason to walk the walk when they couldn't talk the talk.

The alcohol was fueling her lack of filter. It was enough to make her spit out blunt statements – case in point – but be very aware of exactly what she was saying.

And very aware of the stunned look on Rick's face.

"I beg your pardon?"

She wanted to roll her eyes, pretend he was being obtuse, but she knew it wasn't his fault. "Last summer," she replied, turning back to the door. "You walked away from me."

He was still confused by the statement, and if his silence wasn't an indication, the fact that he lingered on the other side of her doorway was. She wanted to laugh at the symbolism because the one time she wouldn't exactly mind him just barreling over her barriers, he was holding back.

"I don't know what that means."

She sighed and dropped her purse and wrap on the couch. "When you left in May. When you hurt me. It hurt because you were walking away from me."

He was adorably confused, and she couldn't blame him. Not really. Because she knew she wasn't exactly making sense.

"I didn't mean to?"

She shook her head, in exasperation or affection she wasn't totally sure. "When you left for the weekend, when I pulled you out of that conference room, I was going to tell you I wanted to go with you."

He was still standing, still outside her door, so she could see the jolt of his reaction along with the surprise he tried to quickly mask.

"It was Esposito's fault, really," she went on, shuffling though her purse, just for something to do. "He pointed out that maybe you weren't around because we were friends. Not that you just wanted to get into my pants but… it wasn't fair to keep parading Demming in front of you and expecting you to sit there and take it."

She sent him a small smile. "Not that you'd given me any real indication of wanting something… permanent, I guess. And I wasn't going to be a weekend fling."

"You were never a weekend fling," he said, and she knew it was because there was a part of him that thought she believed it. She didn't really, but it had acted as such a convenient excuse in the past.

"No. But it was easier." She faced him now, head on, eyes solemn. "Us? We're already great together. I know that. We'll be explosive together. I know that, too. What I don't know is whether or not we'll be forever. And that's the scary part."

His eyes were wide, like he couldn't believe they were having this conversation. It hit her then that maybe he was being subtle, trying to work his way into things. But he was already so far into her life, and so deeply entrenched in her heart, that when he wasn't around she wasn't quite sure which way was up and which was down. And she was in the mood to air all of their dirty laundry.

"I told you once I was a one and done girl. I don't know if that's going to be you. But if we start something-" When we start something, her mind scolded. "I have to be sure that it's not going to end. Because whether I love you or not comes secondary to the fact that I know I need you."

He wasn't moving, still staring. So she kept going.

"My life, the cases, they're my purpose. But you bring that stupid light. You crack jokes, you read my mind, you bring me coffee, you make sure I'm eating. When I'm not sleeping you push and prod until I at least rest. You take the time for me when I don't. But more than that, you know when I'm feeling that way. I don't have to tell you that I'm upset. I don't have to tell you that I'm happy. I don't have to tell you when not to be annoying and when I find it endearing. And I need that."

Well, and she did need him to take care of her, just in those little ways, but she wasn't about to admit that out loud. She had a reputation and an image to uphold, and there wasn't enough alcohol in the world to make her spill those pricey secrets.

"And if we end…. Look, Rick, we're going to crash and burn. Terribly. Murderously. Probably take out at least half of New York with us. And there are things I'm still trying to adjust to, like your public life. Your open nature. This?" She waved at herself, at the way she was spilling her guts. "Not me. But it is you."

And he needed to hear it. She didn't have to say those words for them to come across loud and clear.

He shook his head. "Back up," he said. "Back up to Demming."

To the beginning.

"Tom was good," she replied. "He coached basketball, caught criminals, was good in bed-" She ignored his flinch. "He was safe because I knew he wasn't going to hurt me. He didn't have that past that made me wonder if romantic relationships were his thing. Long-term. And despite how much I was attracted to you, I'd just gotten used to your partnership. I'd just gotten used to you pulling my pigtails. I'd just grown to need it."

His hands were clenched on the doorway, but he listened silently.

"Quite obviously there were still… emotions under the surface or he wouldn't have come to you and asked…" She blew out a breath. "Like you said, there was no flag on the play." She blamed both of them for that. "He wasn't going to upset the apple cart," she said, stealing her own phrase. "He wasn't going to go behind my back and look at my mother's case." The fact that she hadn't told Tom about that case was beside the point. "He knew what the job was like, and I knew he wasn't going to demand more out of me than I was willing to give."

She looked away, to the window she knew held her mother's case file, even if he didn't know it. Was it twisted that her mother's case had become her solace over the summer? "You demand everything."

"You do too," he broke in quietly.

She smiled slightly, because she understood what he meant. She demanded that he understand her job, that he not question when she went into danger, when she had the potential of being killed. She demanded that he hold himself back sometimes, that he tiptoe around what he really wanted to ask. She demanded that he give her space when all he wanted to do was wrap her up in his arms. She demanded he tell her he was going to be there, no matter what, through things he could and couldn't control, for the rest of her life.

He demanded she open up, she share, she allow the emotions through every once in a while. He demanded she take a break, step back, when her habits and successes were predicated on long nights spent staring at a white board. He demanded she stop to get food when she didn't think they had time. He demanded the words she wasn't sure she could say, a faith she wasn't sure she had in her. He demanded her to believe that he wasn't walking away, that it wasn't about Nikki Heat, but about Kate Beckett.

They both demanded truth.

They both demanded faith.

They both demanded unconditional understanding and acceptance.

"I can't promise you everything you want me to," he said softly, finally, but the words carried over to her regardless. "I can't promise you forever, Kate. I can't. Because I can't promise you something when I'm not one hundred percent sure I can keep it. You deserve that."

Truth. Honesty. Values she treasured above everything else.

"I can't promise you I'll always feel secure," she responded. "I can't promise you I won't get mad at your public life." Though admittedly, that seemed rather small in comparison. But his public life was a part of who he was, a part of what he did to sell books. "I can't demand that you change something that means so much to you."

"But we can't be perfect either."

There was passion in his eyes, determination and maybe a hint of frustration, like this was the millionth time they'd had this conversation.

"I know."

That seemed to startle him. "You know?"

She looks back to the window again. "My parents weren't perfect. They fought. Usually when I was in bed. I fight with my dad every now and again. I fight with Montgomery. You fight with Alexis. It's… normal."


"Not but," she said, looking back to him. "I understand that we can't be perfect. It's about how much we accept a person because of the things that drive us nuts."

A light sparked in his eyes, like he knew they were coming to the resolution of their discussion. "Like the fact that I ramble incessantly."

"And the fact that I can be too serious."

She started toward him.

"I can't keep my hands to myself."

He didn't move.

"I'm terrible at sharing."

She would have to go to him.

"I'm ADD."

He would wait for her to take those steps.

"I get too focused. Put blinders on."

She was in her archway now, only two steps from him.

"Sometimes, I don't work enough."

She was so close. So very, very close.

"Sometimes, I work too hard."

She took that last step, but didn't touch him. He leaned in.

"I'm so in love with you."

Her smile was brilliant, blinding, and so true.

"I'm so in love with you, too."

They came together swiftly, smoothly, and though there was some awkward fumbling before they got their hands right, their bodies positioned 'just so', it didn't matter so long as they never separated. Finally, a physical manifestation of what they'd known for too long.

They'd been separated by miles, first literally, then emotionally.

They'd worked their way back.

And now, it was time to take the next step forward.

And here ends this baby! I was so happy when I got kicked in the gut last night to write it. It was long overdue.

Thanks to Xleste for the read-through. And I owe a huge thanks to IMW and ignacio2012 for all the work you guys did through this.

And honestly guys, thanks so much for a good ride. This was always a pleasure to post.