Post-224. Vague spoilers for the ending. This is your warning.
Rick Castle sat at his laptop in the Hamptons, his eyes glazed and looking out over the beach. The ocean waves lapped at the shore, and while he knew his fingers should be flying across the keys, he couldn't focus. There was something eating at him. Things with Gina had returned to being strained as she put more and more pressure on him to finish the book. They'd come to a head two days ago, only a week into their summer in the Hamptons and she'd stormed out, the same way she had when their relationship had ended. So, he was alone in the Hamptons and his thoughts kept straying.
And they kept straying to one thing.
Thinking of Detective Kate Beckett was nothing new to him. In fact, it was the par of the course and usually it was something he was used to. But things between them had been… weird when he'd left. There was a despair about her that, even though he knew she had Demming, had tugged at his heartstrings. Because even he was adult enough to acknowledge that Kate Beckett, as hard as she was to get to know, she was even harder to forget.
His eyes fell to his phone, sitting beside him on the desk. He'd picked up a million times in the last forty-eight hours, fingers poised and ready to hit send. And every time, he'd put it down. Kate wasn't his and he didn't have the right to infringe on her life. His goal was his book.
God, he was being a coward. If he wanted to call her, he should. She'd made it clear she wanted him to return in the fall and as much as he knew it would be painful, he seemed to enjoy being a glutton for punishment. He checked the time. She'd be at home, maybe. So he chanced it and lifted the phone and hit send.
He pulled the phone away from his ear for a moment. That didn't sound like her. "Kate?"
There was a pause. "Hi."
Tentative. Nervous. Kate was never nervous. "Hi."
He hear the clearing of a throat, presumably hers. "What can I do for you, Castle?"
Brisk, simple, polite… His brow wrinkled. "I, um… Nothing."
"Then why did you call?" Now it was irritation. This wasn't what he'd been expecting. Exasperation, maybe, a quip, sarcasm but not… this.
And so, he had a million answers to her question. He closed his eyes.
Because I'm stuck.
Because I wanted to hear your voice.
Because I know you didn't finish what you were saying at the precinct.
Because I miss you.
Instead, what came out of his mouth was totally different.
"Kate, what's going on?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I…" God, how was he supposed to… "You're not you."
Kate Beckett slammed her eyes closed against the onslaught of emotion. Couldn't he just leave her alone for the summer? Couldn't he go about his days, screwing his publisher and let her move on with her life? She'd ended a good thing with Tom under the pretenses of being able to actually talk to Castle and then… Well, it had all fallen apart. She just wanted to get past it.
Instead, she sat at home, decidedly not wallowing, though she was sure Lanie would argue that's exactly what she was doing, trying her best not to focus on how hurt she'd been when Gina had taken Castle's arm. She'd been an idiot and worse, she knew it had all been in her hands. He'd made no secret of wanting her, not really and she'd always been the one to pull back. Then… Well, then there was Tom and she'd felt things shift. She'd chalked it up to alpha maleness, but now… Now it looked totally different.
"What do you want?" She was too exhausted to do this. She didn't want to do this. She wanted to curl up and be left to her second bottle of wine and good friend Wallowing Misery without him.
Was it bad that she wanted him to finish that sentence with 'you'?
"I want to know what's going on."
His tone was soft, too soft, hitting too close to home for her and her heart wrenched painfully in her chest. Her emotions were raw, too close to the surface and she battled back the clogging of her throat and her tears that welled in her eyes. "Nothing," she said. "Nothing's going on."
And in every way, it was the truth.
Rick reacted instinctively, slamming his laptop closed and standing. She sounded like she was crying and if there was one thing he hated it was when Kate was hurt. She was so strong so often that he always knew when she was hurt, that it was bad.
"Kate, what is it? What happened? Is it Demming?"
He was sure he heard a sniffle.
"It's nothing, Castle," she replied and though there was an edge to her voice, Rick was also intimately acquainted with almost every tone. There was sadness in there, like she'd lost something. Or, he wagered, someone. He blew out a breath.
"Did he end it?" It was the one question he didn't want to ask, the one topic he didn't want to broach. All he got in response was silence at least until something shifted. He could almost hear her snap over the phone, losing her grip and his stomach lurched into his throat.
"I did," she told him. Her voice was filled with anger, bitterness. He was confused.
"You did? I thought you liked him."
A self-deprecating laugh floated over the line. "Yeah."
"Then I don't get it," he admitted. Wait… Maybe he did. The looks, the case, the hesitation, the heartfelt confession just before Gina walked up… Jesus. "Kate…"
He felt his chest constrict. One simple word and he was immobilized, unable to move, speak, do anything but hold his breath and wait for her next words.
"We both made our beds, Castle," she told him and he knew she was crying. "And now we have to sleep in them."
He hated that phrase. Well, he hadn't before Kate had uttered it, but now, he utterly hated it. Her voice was vulnerable, small, not Kate Beckett, and that scared him more than anything else. Kate didn't fall, but when she did, she fell hard. And now he knew that this pain, this heartbreak… it was his doing. He couldn't breathe.
"I like you, Rick," she said. "A lot. And right now… I wish I didn't."
He knew what she was going to do next. "Kate. Kate! Kate don't-" But the dial tone interrupted him. He plopped down into the chair in his office in the Hamptons and looked forlornly at the small little device in his hands.
So, this was originally posted on LJ, and I wasn't going to put it here because I did want to do something more with it, but I think I've pretty much decided it's just it's own stand alone piece. If I end up writing something much later, I will, but for now, it's really mean to just stand. And, honestly, I'm pretty proud of it because it doesn't have a happy ending and yet it feels finished in a lot of ways.
Thanks for reading!