Disclaimer: I own nothing and merely toy with the characters here.
"And that was all. Just a kiss?"
After all is said and done
I am not the one
I am not the one
After all is said and done
You are still the one
You are still the one
"Something is different." He says it so plainly, so nonchalant and casual she almost dismisses it. But he's right, something is different.
At first, she didn't notice anything. Perhaps it was because after everything that happened, she didn't have much time to notice. Or maybe there was too much on her mind to notice. Then of course there was the initial awkwardness that kissing your partner presents. Will we talk about it or won't we?
With Rick's lips being the other participating party, it had been likely that talking about it would be unavoidable. He did like hearing the sound of his own voice above most anything. But he hasn't said one word about it. And sure, she might catch him watching her from time to time, but that isn't exactly a new development. Maybe his eyes linger a bit longer than normal, or maybe that is her own insecurity.
So when Josh gets back from Africa and knocks on her door, it is only mildly surprising that one of the first things out of his mouth after their initial kiss, is his comment on how something has changed. Like he can taste the difference on her tongue.
Josh is all hands and lips and something about it puts her off. She has never been one of those women who are fussy about where and when. And when she's with someone, she is with them one hundred percent. So she has to question her lack of desire, after Josh's absence of three weeks.
"Not now." She says simply as she closes the door behind him and eyes his suitcase warily. He had asked her to move in with him before he left, and she had told him they would talk about it after Africa, but his suitcase seems to be screaming that he has made the decision for them.
It's stupid, just a piece of luggage and she is probably giving it a lot more meaning that it deserves, but she likes her space. Even more so now that someone is in it again.
"What happened?" He asks as she brushes by him and returns to her cup of coffee and case file on the table in the kitchen.
It strikes her then that Josh really doesn't know her.
He knows that fun part of her, the part that dares convention and tangos with temptation. The part of her who isn't afraid to go out and dance or drink a little too much. He knows the fire and the passionate part that doesn't mind staying up all night doing things that would make her blush if the guys at the precinct ever found out about them.
But he doesn't know the part of her that aches for justice. He doesn't know the quiet reflective part, or the part that gets a little too caught up in some cases. He doesn't know that that passion and fire translate into something else when she's on the job. He doesn't know her desire to protect. Her need to be a little better, just a little smarter or faster. He doesn't know the way she can push herself past reason or get swallowed whole by one nagging doubt.
He doesn't know the friendly banter. He doesn't know the bite in her bark. He doesn't know how she likes her coffee or how she can spend hours lost between the pages of a good book.
He knows what side of the bed she sleeps on, and how she skips breakfast even though she knows she shouldn't, but those things don't seem to mean much.
She could tell him what happened, could tell him all about how she had a break through on her mother's case. How they finally have a lead sitting behind bars.
But he won't understand it.
He has never had to sit up with her, with Chinese food and photographs. He has never had to throw himself into the thick of it, not caring what happens to himself as long as she comes out of it. She is always just there for him, always easy, always agreeable.
He never has to fight for her because she never gives him any indication that there is anything more to fight for.
He sits down at the table across from her, his head cocked to one side as if studying her. She mimics his actions.
How has he never wondered what else there was? How has he never even attempted to ask the hard questions?
He told her once that her job was her job just like his job was his job. He is passionate about his job, and sometimes it gets in the way of them so he understands how hers can also interfere at times. He talks about it sometimes, about a particularly interesting surgery or his plans to bring his skills to less fortunate countries. But he never asks about her job. He never asks about who she saved today.
And she never offers.
"Seriously, Kate. What happened?"
"Just a rough case."
"I'm sorry I wasn't here for you then."
"Don't worry about it."
He stands and pours himself a cup of coffee.
"You should have seen what we were up against..."
He continues to talk about his trip, but she stops listening.
She can't help thinking that Rick wouldn't drop it. Can't help thinking that Rick wouldn't even have to ask. He would just know and he would know exactly what to say to make her feel better about it again.
It's funny, when they first started dating she thought that Josh didn't really need to know anything about her job, she had been so adamant to separate her personal life from her work life. But now she thinks that's an impossible feat. Now she thinks maybe she can't separate them. So much of her is her job.
It is only her fear of rejection, that slim possibility that she could be hurt if she let him in all the way that has held her back. If she's honest with herself, she can trace that back to Rick too. Not wanting to replace him but needing to replace her feelings for him.
Josh's lips move as he speaks and she watches them. Watches how they form each word and remembers the way Rick's felt against hers.
She's been telling herself that the kiss was a distraction. That it was a ploy, and that it meant nothing.
But she hasn't convinced herself entirely, and watching Josh's lips she remembers how once upon a time they used to light a fire in her as well. How not too long ago she didn't mind that they didn't belong to a certain Richard Castle, they still made her feel things.
Now she feels like maybe the new has worn off. Now maybe Josh is just that guy she keeps around because she's afraid she's never going to find one that will inspire the same feelings Rick's decoy kiss did.
She wonders if kissing him was cheating on Josh. If she has to tell him she kissed her partner as part of a plan to save Ryan and Esposito. She wonders if she has to explain how it started innocently enough but then escalated into something she isn't able to shake.
She wants to do it again.
So much has changed from the last time he sat across from her like this. She remembers kicking her shoes off and rubbing her foot against his ankle and up his calf as he tells her about his impending trip and how excited he is. She remembers how the evening ended in her bed, and she thinks she should at least entertain the notion of welcoming him back in a similar way.
But all she can think about, is how she wishes someone else was sitting across from her.
"I kissed him."
She blurts out suddenly and he freezes, his mouth hanging half open in surprise.
"What?" He finally questions an eternity later when the air seems to return to his lungs.
"Castle. It was part of a ploy to save the guys." She explains.
"I see." He turns his head away, his eyes moving toward the suitcase at the door.
She knew it. Knew he was trying to get a foot in the door, trying to slide past her defenses.
"Why are you telling me?" He asks, turning back to face her again.
"I don't know." She's brutally honest with him. If she had any wits about her she would have kept that to herself. There is no reason he needs to know about it. It wasn't supposed to mean anything.
His forehead wrinkles in concern, like he's trying to read beyond her words. Hunting for that little tell that will give her away. But he doesn't know her well enough, he can't see what is written all over her face. She knows that had Rick been sitting across from her, she wouldn't have been able to hide the questions that have been racing through her mind since her lips brushed against his.
"And that was all. Just a kiss?"
Who did he think she was? She was telling him about it wasn't she? What exactly did he think had happened? What more could have happened?
She knows the look he gives her, as if he is trying to decipher the truth in her words. She has no one to blame but herself for that.
It isn't okay, it's far from okay, because she wants to do it again. Even now she wishes he would just magically turn into another man. Even now she wishes things were less complicated. Wishes she still felt even a fraction of what she felt for Josh before Africa and the kiss. Before Rick.
Because now she's thinking of him as Rick, instead of Castle.
Now she's thinking about how his arms felt wrapped around her, pulling her closer as his tongue tried to slip past her lips. Now she's thinking about how he tastes and smells and how his skin is warm against hers.
She's thinking about how he knows her, better than Josh probably ever will. She's thinking about how he wouldn't be okay with her kissing another man, even as a ploy. She's thinking about how he would know it wasn't just a ploy for her. How he would be able to read past her carefully constructed barriers and see the truth.
He can see that she isn't with him and if it worries him he tries not to let it show. Finally he speaks again.
"It is ok, isn't it?"
She has never told him about Richard Castle.
Sure she has told him the necessary bits. He's shadowing her, research for his books. She had a passing fancy for his novels once upon a time. He's her friend. But the parts she has left out...
He asked her to go to go away with him last summer, then took his ex-wife after she had broken up with her boyfriend and decided to take a chance on them. She inspires him, and he returns the favor. He has saved her life, and she has saved his. He understands her and might even care for her as more than the friends they've been pretending to be.
Twelve years ago she stumbled across one of his books in a library, looking for distraction from the real world and her mother's death (which she also hasn't told him everything about), and it was love at first read.
He makes her laugh. He makes her cry.
And he drives her crazy.
Only now, it's more than annoying her. It's more than irritating comments or behaviors that grind on her nerves. Now he's driving her crazy in an entirely new way.
In anticipation. In her need. In a way that makes her wish she had never even heard of the man sitting across from her.
So no, it's not okay.
"I don't know." She says again. "I'm tired."
She doesn't want to talk about it anymore. All she really wants to do is curl up in her bed and sleep it off. Like Rick Castle is just some bad hangover that will disappear if she gives it enough time.
"Do you want me to go?" He asks as she stands up and steps back from the table, leaving her coffee and case file on the table.
"I don't care."
And for the first time since she started dating him, she really doesn't.