So, there's nothing really that needs to be said about this piece. Just give it a read and see what you think.
I hope you like it.
"A well-known actor murdered at a book-signing for his own autobiography," Castle said, sighing contentedly. "I'll bet he didn't see that ending coming."
Beckett cut him a stern glare before looking back at her files, choosing not to dignify his statement with an answer and hoping vainly that he'd take the hint.
He didn't. "I suppose that's what you get for always playing the villain, though," he mused, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "Everyone hates the villains. Especially the good guys. Actually, you know what? I can solve the case for you here and now. He was murdered by Denzel Washington."
"Castle, I cannot make an arrest based on the fact that the victim and the suspect were mortal enemies in a B-grade horror flick." Beckett's voice was flat, noncommittal; she'd long ago passed the stage of being exasperated by his ridiculous theories, knowing that they were unavoidable and simply not worth the trouble of getting irritated over.
"So, the detective knows her horror movies," Castle said approvingly, adding in a mock-serious tone, "you may not be a total loss after all."
Beckett rolled her eyes. "Shucks, Castle, you sure know how to flatter a girl. Now, how about you be quiet for a minute so I can finish reading the statements from people at the book-signing?"
"You know what, I'm changing my theory," Castle stated suddenly, clearly choosing to ignore her request. "I'm going to go ahead and say that one of his fans at the book-signing probably killed him."
Beckett snorted softly. "What a novel idea. Why didn't I think of that?" She looked up at him and paused, pretending to remember something. "Oh, wait, I did."
"Very funny, Detective," Castle retorted dryly, eyes narrowed. "I'm just saying, if it was anything like one of my book-signings, there's going to be a veritable army of psychopaths to sift through. I swear, it seems like all I get is the obsessive, the delusional, and the just plain crazy."
"Hey!" Beckett responded indignantly, giving him an irritated look. "I went to one of your book-signings!"
Castle lifted his eyebrows, smirking, and Beckett mentally cursed herself for her slip. Hastily looking back down at the file in front of her, she felt her cheeks heat in embarrassment. Biting her lip, she stayed silent, praying he would just let it go.
"Finally, she admits it," Castle said quietly, a faint smile on his face. "I've been waiting for you to say something ever since we met, but I was beginning to think I'd be waiting forever."
Beckett looked up at him, stunned. "You knew? How?"
Castle gave her an amused look. "Well, you see, it was my book-signing," he began, speaking slowly and clearly, as if she were a small child who had just asked a silly question. "So, it stands to reason that I was there. You know, signing books."
He was smirking again, and Beckett found herself getting flustered.
"No, I didn't mean-" she said, then cut herself off, exhaling through her nose. "I'm just surprised you remember, that's all."
Castle said nothing for a moment, simply giving her an intense, measuring look, as if he were weighing up what to say. Unable to look away, Beckett held his gaze, watching curiously as he took a deep breath and let it out heavily.
"May 4th, 2006," he began, his eyes never leaving hers. "It had been raining on and off that day, which explained the dark-coloured coat you had slung over one arm. You were wearing dark blue jeans and a moss-green turtleneck sweater that accentuated both your figure and your eyes. Your hair was only perhaps shoulder length then, and you were wearing this adorable deep blue knit cap. Your black, high-heeled boots came midway up your calf, but they were nice ones, pretty, not slutty. You weren't wearing an engagement or wedding ring, but you did wear a man's watch, which I guessed–correctly, as it happens– to be your father's. "
He stopped speaking and for several moments, Beckett simply stared at him, utterly shocked.
"How can you possibly remember all that?" she asked finally, her voice slightly unsteady.
Castle gave her a small, one-sided smile.
"I get plenty of beautiful women at my signings, and for most of them, it's pretty clear they've never read a single book of mine. People don't seem to realise it, but I do see them when they're waiting in the line. Those women, they spend their entire time in the line making themselves up and checking their mirrors, trying to set themselves apart from the crowd. It's only when they're right in front of me that they actually put down their mirrors and look at me– and then when they do, they immediately try to turn on the charm, batting their eyelashes and flashing cleavage. They don't come for my writing. They come for me, giggling and flirting and slipping me their numbers, expecting me to be flattered."
He paused, looking mildly disgusted, which surprised Beckett. She'd never thought that Castle would feel anything other than delight at being so actively pursued by scores of beautiful women, but now she felt a tiny flicker of shame, realizing how unfairly she had judged him. Watching him closely, she saw his expression soften as he continued.
"But you were different. From the moment you came into sight, you simply stood quietly in line, studying me. Out of the corner of my eye I watched you as you gradually got closer, and I knew that your eyes never left me. But it wasn't creepy. It was… I don't know. Sort of… warm. Like you actually cared."
He paused, giving her a tiny smile. "Surrounded by all these people who were either infatuated with my writing or my money, you simply looked at me like you appreciated me."
Taking a deep breath, he went on. "And then you finally reached the table, this beautiful, desirable woman with the cautious smile and haunted eyes. I remember having to force myself to give you one of my best grins and ask your name, when all I really wanted to do was take your hand and ask if you were okay. There was something about you… a wariness, and a guarded sadness that made me wonder what someone had done to you. And made me hope that they'd paid for it."
For a moment his eyes darkened with some suppressed emotion, but as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. Stunned, Beckett stared at him with a mixture of awe and disbelief, barely breathing as he continued.
"And then when you said your name and handed me your book, your fingers trembled but your voice didn't, and I respected you so much for that, for your ability to give the appearance of strength no matter what you felt underneath. The message I wrote in your book–"
"Never let a nightmare make you afraid to dream," Beckett said slowly, her voice a half-whisper. "I always wondered how…" trailing off, she looked down, taking a slow breath.
"I never wrote that for anyone else," Castle confessed in a low voice, his expression intense. "Not before, not after. You had been through something terrible, and all I wanted to do was make it better for you. But I couldn't. Only you could."
He exhaled shakily, but pressed on. "So many times over the past few years, I wondered whether you had, whether you'd finally escaped that dark place and begun to dream again. There was never a single book-signing that I didn't look for you, always wondering if that would be the time I would meet you again– the time when I would meet the real you, the one free of the chains of whatever had happened to you in the past."
"I'll never forget what you said to me when I gave your book back," he continued with a tiny smile. "I've heard everything, from the classic 'I'm your biggest fan', to the incredibly disturbing 'I touch myself when I read your books'. But what you said affected me more deeply than anything I'd ever heard before.
"'Thank you'. That's all. You simply thanked me. I'd heard the words from fans thousands of times before, but there was something in the way you said those two words that just got to me. Your voice was so quiet that I'm amazed I was able to hear it over the noise of the other people in the store, but I heard it perfectly. There was an emotion in your voice that I had never, ever heard from a reader before, and it stunned me. It was gratitude. Honest, unpretentious gratitude, and I realised then that that was what I had been seeing in your eyes all along, right from the very first moment I saw you watching me silently from the line.
"I wanted so much to say something to you– something more than simply 'You're welcome'– but, for one of the few times in my life, words failed me. You gave me this tiny, tentative smile and then turned away, disappearing into the crowd without looking back."
Castle sighed. "Honestly, I almost followed you. I looked away from you for one second to ask the next person in line to excuse me, and when I looked back up, you were gone. I even considered asking Paula to go find you, but what would I tell her to say? I didn't even know what to say to you myself. So I sat back down, and let you go. And I never saw you again."
For several moments, neither of them moved or spoke, the silence hanging heavily between them, fraught with the weight of his admission.
"At least, not until that fateful night when you crashed my party and dragged me here to talk about a murder investigation," Castle added lightly, attempting to alleviate the serious mood that had now enveloped them like a heavy, dark cloud.
Tearing her eyes from his, Beckett looked down at her desk, overwhelmed. She could feel the prickle of tears at the back of her eyes and blinked rapidly, horrified at the idea of becoming so emotional while surrounded by colleagues, in plain sight of anyone who cared to look.
"Kate?" Castle asked softly, reaching out tentatively to brush his fingertips against her hand, which was lying, clenched, atop the desk. "I'm sorry, Kate. I never wanted to upset you."
Beckett closed her eyes, forcing herself to breathe slowly and deeply. He had done it again, found that crack in her defences and somehow clawed his way through it, bringing the whole thing down behind him, leaving her bare for everyone to see.
And she knew he'd keep doing it over and over; no matter how many times she built her walls back up, he'd always find a way to tear them down. She couldn't allow it. She simply couldn't allow herself to be so exposed, especially not to the people she worked with, the people who should think of her as a detective, and nothing else. But as long as Castle kept getting to her like this, her professional facade was always at risk, and the walls that were such an important part of her always in danger of crumbling to dust.
So she did the only thing she could do.
She let him in.
Without lifting her head, she reached out to him, closing her hand tightly around his. Gently returning the grip, Castle rubbed his thumb lightly across her skin, the two of them alone together in the silence of their own world.
"Hey, check it out," Ryan said quietly, reaching back to whack Esposito lightly on the shoulder, "Our favourite non-couple is having another one of their deep moments."
"Oh yeah?" Esposito rolled his chair over, looking with interest at the writer/detective duo. Studying them closely for a moment, he commented, "Bet you a dollar one of them jumps the other within five minutes."
"I'll take that bet," Ryan responded quickly. Once they'd shaken on it, he gave Esposito a pitying smile.
"You really never learn, do you? You're such the archetypal hot-blooded Hispanic, all about the fire and the passion and the acting on feelings. That's not what those two are like. You know how guarded Beckett is– Castle has to be patient with her, get her to open up to him so he can show her how he feels without scaring her away."
"If he really wants to show her how he feels, he should just grab her and kiss her," Esposito answered insistently. "Then she'd know."
"That what you did with Lanie?" Ryan asked slyly, glancing over at his partner.
"Yep," Esposito replied with a wolfish grin, "And it worked, didn't it?"
Ryan sighed, then shook his head slowly, muttering, "Such a cave-man…"
They were so engrossed in the scene unfolding before them that neither noticed the Chief approaching.
"What are you two doing?" he asked suddenly from behind them, causing them both to jump slightly.
"Shhhhh," they said together, not looking up. Montgomery raised an eyebrow, then followed their gaze to Beckett's desk.
"What's going on over there?" he asked quietly, intrigued despite himself.
"Castle and Beckett seem to be sharing a heavy moment. And we're waiting to see how it pans out."
"Well, as much as I'd love to see those two get their act together," Montgomery acknowledged before continuing seriously, "we are in the middle of a murder investigation. The captain from over at the 3rd Precinct just faxed this over. They had a similar murder just a few weeks ago, and they never got the guy. This folder has the details plus all suspects and persons of interest. I'd like you two to get those two and follow up on it, see if you can rustle up any connections between the two vics."
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather brief Beckett on this yourself, sir?" Esposito asked somewhat hopefully, glancing up.
"Hell, no. I am not going over and getting between those two when they're stuck in that little world of theirs. That's why I'm the captain, so I can pass jobs like that off to poor suckers like you two. Now move it."
"Can you give us just a few more minutes? We've… kind of got a bet going."
"You can have two minutes, then you better get your asses over there," Montgomery allowed generously, looking almost amused.
Looking back over at Castle and Beckett, he shook his head slowly, his expression pensive.
"How those two have managed to keep their hands off each other for over a year is definitely a mystery to me."
With that, he turned and disappeared back into his office, leaving the two detectives grinning after him.
"You know, you could always just pay me now," Ryan suggested mischievously, sending a sideways glance in Esposito's direction.
Esposito shook his head emphatically. "No way, man. Just give it a minute, I'm telling you, Castle's gonna crack any second now."
"You really never learn," Ryan responded, shaking his head slightly. "Hope all you want, but in under two minutes, your dollar will be all mine."
Castle's thumb was still rubbing slowly back and forth over her knuckles, leaving a trail of warmth across her skin. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Beckett steadied herself for what she was about to do, knowing that the words, once spoken, could never be unsaid. But now that she'd allowed Castle inside her walls, she knew that she couldn't hide from him– or the truth– any longer.
"I don't want to be afraid to dream anymore, Castle," she admitted quietly, lifting her eyes slowly to meet his. The admission cost her, but she owed it to him. And to herself.
"Then let me dream with you, Kate," he said seriously, his blue eyes boring deep into hers with an intensity she'd never seen before. "I promise I'll do whatever it takes to keep your nightmares at bay."
Beckett gave him a small smile, her fingers tightening slightly around his. "You've been doing that since long before I met you, Castle."
Castle's eyebrows drew together, and he simply looked at her, waiting for her to make him understand. Taking a deep breath, Beckett squeezed his hand slightly, then began.
"I bought your first book the day my mother was killed."
Seeing his eyes widen in shock, she pressed on, forcing herself to tell it all. "My father and I were supposed to meet her in a couple of hours for dinner, and I had some time to spare, so I ended up wandering around this little bookshop that was just around the corner from our apartment, just as a way to pass the time. I'd seen your books there before, plenty of times, but somehow I'd never really stopped to look at them."
She looked away, remembering. "I was reaching for a Michael Crichton when I accidentally knocked In A Hail Of Bullets onto the floor. I picked it up and read a few lines, and the next thing I knew, I was buying it. I was never sure why, only that it just seemed right. So I took it home and threw it on my nightstand, planning to start it after dinner that night."
"And then we came home from dinner, expecting to find my mother waiting with some amusing explanation for her absence, only to find Detective Raglan waiting for us instead, holding his hat in his hands. In that moment, my entire life changed. For a while, I thought my life had ended along with my mother's."
Lost in the memory, Beckett gave an almost imperceptible shudder. "After her funeral I just came home and sat on my bed, staring at nothing. I still couldn't face the idea of living my life when she wasn't living hers. For a short time I considered killing myself."
She paused, meeting Castle's horror-struck eyes unwaveringly.
"But I knew I wouldn't. I could never do that to my father. And then I saw your book on my nightstand, and realized there was another way to escape my life. So I buried myself in your books, losing myself in the characters and worlds you created, the only places where I could almost feel happy.
"By the time I had read them all, I was already training to be a cop, and I had learned how to box my mother's murder away in a dark corner of my mind. Honestly, I've lost track of how many times I've read them since; they were, and still are, my only escape."
"So," she said, taking in a deep breath, "the truth is, it wasn't my friends or my therapist that helped me survive my mother's death. It certainly wasn't my father, who needed saving as much as I did. It was you."
The weight of her revelation hit them both like a bombshell; gripping each other's hands tightly, they could only stare at one another, both caught up in an overwhelming riot of emotions. Castle's gaze burned into hers like blue flame, and she understood the expression in his eyes clearly; she knew that– if he had his way– she would be in his arms right now, enfolded tightly in his embrace.
And, if she'd had her way, that's exactly where she'd be too.
Suddenly, Ryan and Esposito appeared on the other side of the desk, trying– and failing– to look casual and innocent.
"We interrupting something?" Esposito asked mildly, his tone suggesting he knew very well that was exactly what they were doing.
"Yes." Castle & Beckett gave the answer simultaneously, looking up at Ryan and Esposito with matching expressions of irritation. Glancing back at each other, they shared a tiny smile, not noticing the two detectives share a smile of their own.
Beckett held Castle's gaze a moment longer, before sighing heavily and reluctantly releasing his hand. Trying to ignore the odd, incomplete feeling caused by the absence of his hand in hers, she turned to Ryan and Esposito.
"So, what have you got for us?"
Once Esposito had them fully briefed, Beckett stood up. "Go get your stuff together," she told the two waiting detectives, "and we'll go see if we can shake out any leads." With a brisk nod, Ryan and Esposito headed for their desks, grabbing their coats and notepads, and Castle stood, reaching for his coat.
"Beckett…" he began tentatively, his voice pitched low for only her to hear. "We will talk more about this, right? I don't want to get so close and then have you push me away again."
The unmasked fear in his voice affected her, tugging at her heart. "I'm not going to be pushing you away, Castle," she promised quietly, her eyes lifting to his as she pulled on her coat.
Meeting her eyes searchingly, he gave a slow nod, seeming relieved by what he saw. Beckett held his gaze a moment longer, then turned, knowing he would be right behind her.
Joining Ryan and Esposito, the four of them stepped together into the elevator. Out of habit, Castle and Beckett moved to the back, leaning together against the wall. In a clearly deliberate move, Ryan and Esposito placed themselves with their backs to Castle and Beckett, facing the doors and chatting casually as if the other two were not even present.
With a small smile at the not-so-subtle manoeuvre of the two men she considered her brothers, Beckett quietly slipped her hand into Castle's, winding her fingers through his. They were so close that she felt him stiffen in surprise at her touch, then immediately relax, his hand returning her grip warmly.
Beckett closed her eyes, feeling suddenly lighter, as if the chains that had bound her had begun falling away, one by one. Castle had made her realize that, though her mother's death was an indelible part of who she was, it was not who she was.
And finally, for the first time in over eleven years, Kate Beckett allowed herself to dream.
As usual, thank you all so much for reading this and I really hope you'll have some views to share :)