Alright, so I got an idea in my head while writing Chapter 10 of Unacknowledged as of Yet. It wouldn't leave me alone. It evolved a little, but it wouldn't actually go away. So I wrote it down. I hope you guys enjoy it. It's basically become a bit of a "how I think the season 2 finale could become the start of something awesome." It's a one-shot. Okay, I lied. It was just a one-shot; now it's a one-shot with an optional (and very short) epilogue (because apparently I'm very big on epilogues in this fandom). So you can feel free to treat it as a one-shot if you like, or you can read the epilogue. That way everybody wins! However, I am not planning a sequel. And I don't own anything.
Oh, and there are very, very vague spoilers for the season 3 premiere. Nothing major at all. In fact, if you've seen the Season 3 teaser you're good. Because that's pretty much all I know about the next season.
When he met Kate Beckett he thought she was pretty much perfect.
Smart, sexy, beautiful, entertaining, great at her job, a little too attached to the rules maybe, but she was a police officer so it made sense. Plus, he was sure she'd loosen up once she stopped being quite so irritated by his mere presence in her life.
After all, he'd seen hints of the playful in her.
He'd considered himself the unworthy peasant worshipping at the temple of the goddess.
To be perfectly honest she had him the second she leaned in to whisper in his ear. She could have recited nursery rhymes and he'd have been completely smitten. The fact that she'd flirted had been icing on the cake.
Had anyone bothered to ask him, Rick Castle would have admitted that he'd never actually had a muse before, not really. Meredith had always thought she'd been his muse, and he certainly hadn't disabused her of the notion (after all, letting Meredith have her little illusions about her powers of inspiration had their own rewards and he had to admit, his ex-wife could certainly be inspirational in other areas). But there'd never been anybody like Beckett. Sure he'd based minor characters on people he'd encountered, but she was in a class all her own. It was like she'd walked into his life practically designed to be the heroine in a series of mystery novels.
Castle'd only needed to watch her work for a couple of hours to see just how good at her job she was. The first few weeks shadowing her he was almost constantly in awe. He almost felt sorry for the criminals who'd committed the murders she was assigned to. If you killed someone on her watch you could be damn sure that Kate Beckett would do everything in her power to arrest you. She would search the city and she would find you and if you didn't come quietly she would chase you down.
And really, was there anything sexier than a beautiful woman with a gun?
Castle was pretty sure there wasn't, well not much anyway. Why'd you think everyone was so gung ho for the Nikki Heat book covers?
Beckett was pretty much the only detractor.
But then she didn't want people to think she was Nikki Heat. Sure, she liked the 'good cop' description, but Castle knew Beckett was a little less than thrilled with Nikki's escapades with Jameson Rook and abrasive personality.
Sometimes Castle wondered if Beckett thought Nikki was beneath her, that some of the things Nikki did were far too frivolous to even be acknowledged. Not by Kate Beckett: Supercop, at least.
And she was Supercop. Sure, Beckett got annoyed by his childish behaviour, but in the first few months of their acquaintance the only time Castle saw Beckett even a little bit unsure was when she couldn't solve one of her cases. Then she got cranky. Which, though inconvenient, couldn't really be considered a flaw since it was probably partly what made her so good at her job.
Of course, even Supercop had a little chink in her armour, her mother's case.
Just talking about her mother's death made Kate Beckett vulnerable. It was basically her Kryptonite. Every superhero was allowed one weak spot and that was hers.
Castle knew part of the reason she was determined to solve other murders was that she hadn't ever been able to solve the one that really haunted her.
So, in attempt to help out his own real-world Supercop, Castle had tried to help her solve it himself.
In the process he found out that if you poked a superhero in their vulnerable spot they lashed out. He should have realized. He'd certainly read enough comic books in his (partially) wasted youth to know better. Superheroes got used to the mystery surrounding them, to that feeling of invulnerability. They didn't want anyone disturbing their carefully constructed reality.
So Richard Castle found his season pass to observe the inner workings of the Batcave swiftly revoked.
He couldn't even blame Beckett for it. He'd weaseled his way into her private life; she'd reacted by shoving him out of her entire world. It had a kind of karmic justice.
He hadn't liked it in the least. But he'd understood.
Then, just as he'd begun to despair, Kate Beckett had used her powers of forgiveness (and she was as good at that as slamming bad guys into walls) to let him back into her life.
He was allowed back in the Batcave.
In fact, he may have even been let in deeper than ever before. He wasn't just observing. He got to be her friend, to get to know her, to trust her. She spent time with his family. His mother adored her, Alexis idolized her, and Kate seemed perfectly comfortable with them. And he, Richard Castle, without even having to ask mind you, got to stand by her side when she faced her personal kryptonite again. She let him help her. And when things went badly she didn't even shut him out. He'd tried to go, ashamed by his own failure, but she hadn't let him. She wanted them both to live to fight another day, just happy they were even moving in the right direction.
Castle'd been practically in awe of her then.
And secretly thrilled.
After all, he was Supercop's chosen sidekick. It was awesome. Oh, he knew he wasn't the main attraction; he didn't care. He was perfectly content to be the Watson to her Holmes. It was strangely appropriate. He was writing books about her after all.
Then the unthinkable happened.
H e was usurped.
Kate found herself a second Supercop (although, he wasn't anywhere near her league in Castle's opinion, a couple of grades down on the superhero scale to be quite honest). After Kate met Tom, well, Castle began to feel less like Watson and more like one of the slightly bumbling, and slightly clueless constables that populated Conan Doyle's work. He was there, maybe even necessary, but nobody really cared one way or the other about his presence, certainly not Holmes.
Quite simply, he wasn't the man in her life anymore. But Castle reminded himself that both Holmes and Watson had other relationships. He'd had more than his share of little liaisons. It was normal.
But then on the other hand, did she really need him? Did he really need her?
After all, Beckett all but admitted that she'd chosen Tom because she was safe, not because he was necessarily what she wanted.
Just like that all of Castle's little fantasies had been cracked. Superheroes didn't take the easy way out. They fought for what was right, always. Even if it was difficult. It was why most of them had such crappy personal lives. Not that that was what he wanted for Beckett, but that wasn't the point. Her whole relationship with that accursed Demming smacked of safety.
And then, then, at that crucial moment, just as he'd been at his most unsure, she'd dealt him another blow.
She'd lied to him.
Watching her walk around the precinct with Demming all smiley was bad enough, but watching Kate lie to him had been the final straw.
He could literally see the pedestal he'd put her on crumbling before his eyes. No longer Supercop, not even Nikki Heat, just Kate Beckett.
Kate Beckett who'd cracked his secretly optimistic little heart.
Sure Richard Castle was the rich, charming, cavalier playboy, but he was also a storyteller. And he was used to his characters behaving the way he wanted. He was used to neatly solved murders, to a lot of really good sex, and, when he chose it, to the perfect fairytale ending.
That wasn't what he'd gotten.
Instead he'd gotten a female lead who'd chosen elsewhere. So, instead of the undeclared love-interest, Castle decided to take on another character, the self-sacrificing romantic hero who ceded the field so that the object of his affection might be happy. It sounded great on paper, and he'd really had the best of intentions. Admittedly, good intentions or not, that type of semi-tragic romantic hero was also the generally the annoying idiot that most people secretly hated. With the exception of Rick from Casablanca obviously, but that was probably more due to the unassailable cool of Humphrey Bogart than anything else. And Richard Castle's temperament also wasn't built to be the tragic hero. So he decided to get himself his own love interest and leave his muse behind.
She was better off without him anyway, probably wouldn't even notice he was gone, not with Demming the robbery Detective who stopped thieves in their tracks. Robbery and homicide. They matched.
Just like author and publisher did.
And that was that.
Castle even managed to convince himself that nobody at the station wanted to hear from him, that they weren't expecting him to call. He was going to move on to the next chapter of his life. He had tons of unused research for Nikki Heat after all, and he probably did get in her way a little bit.
Maybe it was best to close that chapter in his life, and just let her be happy. Start fresh.
Okay, yeah, he was being a bit petty, acting a bit like a kid who'd lost a toy, but he was still licking his wounds.
But then fate intervened. (What? He was trying not to over-romanticise the story, but he was still a novelist.)
He never could resist looking into a mystery. So when he heard from some of his, well, his shadier contacts shall we say, that there was a dead body in an apartment, even though he knew he shouldn't, he couldn't resist checking it out.
Which brought him back into her territory.
And was Beckett happy to see him? Did she smile and ask about his summer? No, not Katherine Beckett. Not her, not her partners. They yelled at him, insulted him, and then arrested him.
How's that for a homecoming?
When he spoke to Kate after that she was angry and petty and dismissive and oh so superior.
She was showing her flaws.
Now that she wasn't Supercop anymore he realized it. She didn't trust people, didn't give them the benefit of the doubt. She ordered people around all the time. Oh she was good at it, even subtle sometimes. The orderees didn't even realize half the time what was going on, and to be fair it was usually to people she was technically the boss of, but still. Plus, she held grudges, and she could flare up at the slightest little thing. He had no idea what she thought she should be angry at him for leaving for the summer. Apparently she'd expected him to just follow her around until Doomsday without complaint. Well not Richard Castle. So she could just shove her attitude. The hell if he was coming crawling back to her a second time.
Been there, done that.
Huh. So he had.
Which meant that Kate hadn't changed. She'd always been that way. She'd always been occasionally irritable, sometimes a little bit spiteful, always determined to be in control, and let's face it, he'd always suspected the woman had a pretty high opinion of herself. Castle'd always known all that. It'd never bothered him before.
Yes, angrily interrogating him for murder Kate Beckett was absolutely showing her flaws. The only difference was, now he was actually acknowledging them.
When he'd first met her he'd turned her into a character; in his head he'd been telling their story, with all the perfect romance, and unbelievable circumstances, and wonderful moments he could think of. It was a tale for the ages.
But it hadn't been reality.
When he'd been infatuated he hadn't seen her bad points; now that he was hurt he wasn't acknowledging the good. Well, other than her beauty obviously. He was a breathing heterosexual male and it was damn hard to miss.
Still, maybe he should try not looking for the extreme opinions. So he watched her eyes while she was yelling at him.
Then he saw it. Beneath the anger he saw the hurt.
She'd hurt him, but apparently he'd also hurt her.
Maybe even deliberately. After all, she wasn't the only one who could be petty, maybe a little bit vindictive. He'd covered his hurt with indifference, but she always covered with anger. He'd actually known that.
At the moment Kate Beckett was putting on just as much of a show as he was.
She wasn't the Supercop of his fantasies, but she also wasn't the inconsiderate, unemotional witch his wounded psyche was making her out to be.
So he did what Richard Castle did best. He took a chance.
He steeled himself up and took a metaphorical step towards her. Showed her a little genuine emotion, cooperated just a little. It was only a small step, he wasn't a saint after all. And playing the self-sacrificing hero was tiring, and got him nowhere.
And then something miraculous happened.
She softened too. Then it was her turn to take a metaphorical step. Again, just a little one, but he could see it in her eyes.
And with that something shifted.
Since he was already a person of interest in the case he was automatically involved. Beckett seemed reasonably unconcerned about having him around again. Especially since he was generally cooperative.
And he was. Because now that he realized what he'd been doing for the past few months he also realized that he missed her, and the guys, and the station, and the work.
Castlee was surprised by how much he'd missed helping solve the crimes. It was why he'd done something as monumentally stupid as going to examine a dead body. Part of him had subconsciously wanted to catch her attention again. It was inevitable if he crossed paths with a single member of the NYPD.
So he watched her throughout the case. Watched her closely. He watched as they took a series of steps back towards each other, sometimes he was leading, sometimes she was.
The details didn't matter. All that was important was that they were both deliberately participating, that they both wanted this, whatever it was.
At the end of the case, after they caught the real killer (not him obviously), Beckett admitted how glad she was not to have to send him away in handcuffs.
He admitted how much he missed working with her, helping her solve her cases.
She smiled at him.
He smiled back.
The next morning he was back at her desk with two steaming hot cups of coffee.
And with that they fell back into their rhythm.
He studied her again.
But now, along with cataloguing her virtues, he was also cataloguing her flaws.
Beckett was brilliant, dedicated, stubborn and beautiful. She had an innate sense of right and wrong. She wasn't judgemental, most of the time. She was sympathetic, confident, brave and strong. She was funny and clever and sarcastic and even playful on her best days. When she actually let herself have a good time there was no one he'd rather spend time with, barring Alexis. And yeah, she still kicked the crap out of the scumbags of New York, and she still had the gun.
But Beckett could also be irritable and petty. Her stubbornness certainly wasn't always a virtue. She had trouble opening up, trouble trusting. She had a habit of just shutting down on people when things got tough. Getting anything genuine out of her could be like pulling teeth. She was authoritative, sometimes almost dismissive, she occasionally shot him down just because she could, and she positively demanded control. Sometimes her dedication to her job was almost a mania. Not to mention she could be jealous and selfish and any number of other things.
In other words, she was human.
She wasn't some sort of idealistic, overly romanticized fantasy.
And besides, he was involved with someone and so was she. So he didn't have to worry about any romantic nonsense coming in and clouding his judgement.
The two of them could have a lovely and rewarding friendship.
Which they did.
It wasn't long before things were completely back to normal at the precinct between Richard Castle and Kate Beckett. The two of them were almost scarily good at picking up where they left off. One case in and things were practically back to normal. The teasing, the building theory together, simultaneously figuring out who the killer was, even the playful flirting, though now there really was no intent behind it thanks to the other people currently in their lives.
Neither of their relationships relationship lasted the year, but it didn't matter. Their friendship was too well-defined now for a major shift.
He brought her coffee and the occasionally pastry.
She listened to each of his theories with the same attention she still gave his books, and when she mocked them afterwards they both knew it was mainly just for show.
He always tried to think of something to say to help her out of a block in her case.
She gave his daughter advice on everything from boys to college applications.
On the anniversary of her mother's death he spent the night sitting with her in silence in her apartment. Then, when they got a lead on her mother's case he was there. And when they sat in Montgomery's office waiting to find out if that longed for clue was really coming he felt her take his hand. For a while afterwards he thought she'd broken his fingers, but he couldn't have cared less.
When Martha had what the doctors considered a minor (and thankfully non-life threatening) heart attack she sat with him and Alexis at the hospital, refusing to leave until they did. She didn't speak, didn't bother with the empty comfort, but this time she supplied the coffee.
He dedicated pretty much all his books to her, in one way or another.
She told him more than once (albeit occasionally a little bit grudgingly) that she sometimes needed his help on her cases. And even if she didn't need it, she appreciated it anyway.
They were close, but their relationship was never romantic.
Sure, there were moments of awkwardness. Mistletoe at a holiday party, that one time they both got a little too drunk at her apartment and, well, he couldn't speak for Beckett but Castle admitted to himself that he'd very nearly kissed her. Plus strangers were constantly mistaking them for a couple, which, though awkward, made a certain kind of sense. They were quite close, finishing each other's sentences, knowing a lot of detail about each other's days, that sort of thing.
But they were still just friends.
Castle couldn't help thinking about that one evening as he finished the first draft of his fourth Nikki Heat novel, Summer Heat. It was technically the last one he was under contract for, but that was really just a formality. The previous three books had all sold so well that another three book contract was basically inevitable. He certainly didn't need to worry about an excuse to shadow Beckett any more, though they both knew that wasn't the only reason he was still around.
And even if he didn't shadow her at the precinct anymore he'd still see her. They were too close now, saw each other outside of work far too much to completely lose contact.
He knew her, and he knew her well. He knew her strengths, knew her flaws. The comparisons to Nikki Heat weren't even an issue for him anymore. Nikki was only a poor facsimile of some of her more obvious qualities. Nikki Heat and Kate Beckett were separate entities in his mind. Nikki was a character, and he loved her as he loved all his characters, but she wasn't Kate.
Kate was still kickass and awesome, but she wasn't Supercop, invulnerable except for her own personal kryptonite. And she wasn't someone to be worshipped or idolized. She was the one who made him laugh on a bad day, the one he talked to when he was worried about Alexis, who he would always love to annoy, but she also drove him crazy, made him angry, occasionally even furious. She was human.
And she was his best friend. He hoped she always would be.
Castle frowned suddenly as he sent the draft to his editor. After all, was that all he wanted? Obviously he didn't want to lose her friendship, but even if he wasn't leaving the precinct now, surely he would eventually. Was he really planning on following her around for the rest of his life? And what about her? Inevitably she'd be transferred or promoted, maybe even to a desk job. What then? He certainly couldn't sit in her office and watch her do paperwork all day. For one, that sounded incredibly boring, for another, she still found it creepy.
Now that his mind had opened up this train of thought Castle found that he couldn't stop it. He remembered all the times it felt like their banter went just a step too far, the times he admitted to himself that she was easily the most beautiful woman in the room, the times the two of them stood just a little too close together, the sparks they both ignored. He let himself imagine what it would be like to touch her, to kiss her, to love her.
But then he realized that he didn't need to imagine the last one.
He took a breath. Could he risk it? If he asked and she said 'no' could he deal with the rejection? Could their friendship survive? Maybe it could. It'd survived a fair bit after all. And now that he was actually letting himself acknowledge its existence, Castle was pretty sure the thing between them wasn't one-sided in the least.
If he was going to do it now would be the perfect time. He was single, she was single. The end of his contract would be the perfect excuse to talk about things.
He still couldn't be sure if she'd risk it. She'd implied once a long time ago that he wasn't a good bet for a relationship. That with his playboy reputation he couldn't be trusted, and he could seriously disrupt her life. But she knew him better now. She knew that a lot of the reputation was pure publicity, that he was capable of sustaining real relationships with real women. She'd even seen a couple for herself. And she'd seen that he was still on good terms with some of them. Even if she was nervous about the idea, Beckett had to at least know that he'd never deliberately hurt her. Not that he didn't have any flaws, he did, loads of them. Far too many to name, but she knew what the real ones were.
And now he knew her too. He knew what she liked and what she didn't. He trusted her with his life and with his family. But most importantly he knew her faults. If he decided to try a relationship now neither of them would be dealing with an image she couldn't possibly live up to.
If they tried now it would be real.
He desperately wanted it to be real.
He could only hope she wanted it too.
She was still cautious and guarded, even with him. He'd always known it was one of her worst flaws. He didn't mind it so much, but it did mean that if she did have some sort of deeply hidden feelings for him it was unlikely that she'd ever tell him, which on the other hand meant that her silence on the subject meant virtually nothing. And he had thought he'd caught her staring at him a little oddly more than once. He'd brushed it off whenever it happened obviously, too afraid to deal with the potential rejection.
Then Castle remembered once being angry with her for the same thing.
One of them had to make the move.
It was unlikely to be her.
So why shouldn't he?
She wasn't a deity to be worshipped by an adoring and unworthy slave. She was as flawed as he was.
But they might just be imperfect for each other.
If he could just work up the nerve to ask.
Epilogue in Chatper 2 if you're interested