Author: Elliott Silver
Summary: "I never wanted your words, Castle," she says. "All you do is string them together and make them sound beautiful."
Author's Note: In many ways, this story is about what we don't say, and if feels broken, maybe that's why. As always, thank you for reading.
He doesn't recognize her when she walks in, and she's not sure if she should feel relieved or disappointed. This isn't what she planned, but then again, it's always that way with Castle, especially when he plans themed celebrations.
It's gone eleven, but the Old Haunt is bursting with people. She's sure it's against the fire code, and she wonders who he paid off perhaps. It's the kind of party only Castle can throw, glitzy and irreverent, the dazzling kind where she is out of place.
The place looks very much like a speakeasy, roaring like it is the twenties again, and she thinks if she turns her head quickly enough, F. Scott and Zelda might appear. "It's a Prohibition party," he'd told everyone. "Come dressed for the Jazz Age!" It feels more like Mardi Gras with vintage clothes.
Women flash and burn in sharp colors against the dark walls, while the men fade back, elegant and refined. Beckett quickly notices that all the women are dressed in color, Lanie in amethyst, Gina in red, Laura in draped gold. Only she is different, and she wonders again why she is here, why she agrees to these things for him. They only make her feel alone and out of place. Alexis sees her and waves, dressed in a dropped-waist gown of petal-pink and black velvet that makes her look too-legal and ravishing. Martha nods from the microphone that she's commandeered, wrapped in exquisite green-blue silk with long necklaces of topaz and peridot and a peacock feather turban on her head.
She sees Castle from across the room, because he's in a white dinner jacket, of course, not because she always finds him with her eyes. There's a red flower pinned to his lapel, and he looks suave and dashing, almost like a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond. She thinks he looks more like Jay Gatsby, always wanting something he doesn't know how to get.
"Your girl didn't get the memo," Paula his agent hisses in his ear. She's in rare form tonight, and thinks calling Beckett "his girl" annoys him, but it doesn't and he likes it so he never lets on.
When he looks, he's stunned. He wonders how she can always do that to him. In the Monet-like melee of the room, Beckett stands out like a Rothko. He's seen her in dresses, laced skin to satin, bound into beautiful things. But she's not in a dress tonight, and somehow the vintage black suit, with its old-fashioned tailoring, its sharp satin lapels and the crisp white shirt, suits her even more. She shines, even more than the haze of black netting wrapped over her eyes and clipped into her thick hair with glittering starbursts.
"She looked better in the Hervé Léger," Paula complains. "I don't know what you see in her."
"Everything," he says, but she's already whisked herself off into the party, a blur of icy blue like her eyes.
He goes to Beckett, because there's always something about her at these things, as if she isn't quite sure she should be there when he's quite sure she should. She's almost surprised when he comes up and hands her a cocktail, a black martini that matches her, because he knows she likes vodka. Up close, he can see the age of the suit, the lines of its seams, how it wasn't quite made for a woman's curves, though she carries it off beautifully. Up close, they are nearly eye to eye when she stands straight in her tall heels. Up close, he can see the fringe of her lashes through the fine veiling swirling around her head. And just under the unbuttoned collar of her shirt, he sees a thin vein of gold against her skin, the great weight of her mother's necklace.
He breathes. Beckett still – always – smells like cherries.
She compliments him on the décor, the party.
"I wanted it to feel like The Great Gatsby," he says.
"More like The Beautiful and the Damned," she replies, and his eyes rise with surprise. She never lets him forget that she reads more than his books.
"Maybe This Side of Paradise," he counters, and brushes his fingers along the crackly netting. It pulls tight against her face, on the sides of her temple, when he does that, and it's like she can feel him touching her.
She wants to say something, and he thinks she's been wanting to say something to him for a while now, but then Gina pulls him away, because she still can, and it's gone two before he sees Beckett again, as he escorts the last guests to waiting cabs, and finally they are alone. He goes to her because she waits, as if she hasn't quite learned the secret to doing it patiently.
"Did you know the term speakeasy comes from Pennsylvania?" he asks, sitting down beside her. "Kate Hester ran an illegal saloon in McKeesport and when her clients got too loud, she would say, "speak easy, boys! Speak easy!"
"McKeesport, huh?" Beckett shakes her head. She's twirling a maraschino stem between her fingers, and he just bets she's one of those girls who can tie a knot in one with her tongue. He tries not to think about that.
She's pulled the black netting from her hair, and it lies squashed and crumpled on the bar. Now her eyes are only dark with make-up, and something deeper, something that should put him on edge, if he knew better, which he doesn't.
He spins circles on the barstool, like an amusement ride, because it's easier to make the room spin like this, to control it, than to have it whirl out of his hands because she's next to him, because she can do that, make it happen, just by looking over at him like she's doing now.
"When were you going to tell me?" She twirls an empty martini glass in her hand, and meets his eyes.
He stops spinning.
"Tell you what?"
She faces him and he's distracted by the darkness of her brown eyes, the long lines of her throat against the swansdown-white of her shirt, the lush black of her jacket.
"When were you going to tell me you quit writing Nikki Heat?"
It's a good thing she continues because he can't answer.
"I thought you had a three-book deal."
"I did – "
"But you've only written one more book so far?"
"They re-offered," he finally says. He hedges. He's very good at this. Except with her.
"For a certain British spy."
He watches her process the information. The offer to write a new James Bond novel came in over a month ago and he'd meant to tell her every day since then. He isn't good at keeping secrets, but maybe sometimes he's better than he thinks.
"It's a one-book deal," he pauses and tries not to look so keen. "With movie rights."
She doesn't say anything and that worries him. If she knows about the deal, she knows it's a two-year project, split between L.A. and Pinewood Studios in London.
"You know, with Daniel Craig," he adds hopefully.
"Yes, Castle, I know who Daniel Craig is, and so does every other woman with a pulse." She sighs. "But what about Nikki Heat?"
"What about her?"
Beckett tenses and he realizes that was the wrong thing to say.
"Is this about Gina?" she asks suddenly.
They've never spoken about what Beckett heard that night, about Castle saying "it's over." But no one could help noticing that Gina left early in a rush of red, the beads on her short dress rattling as she crossed the room. Gina wanted to know why he didn't invite the people on her list, and he told her it was because they were dull and boring and only wanted to talk about how much money his next books could make. Her eyes had narrowed, and he'd seen that mercenary look before, when she divorced him the first time. She always thinks she knows what's best, and maybe she does when it comes to churning out his books because that's what keeps her a wealthy woman. Self-interest is a much greater motivator than love, and they both know it.
He breathes. "No, it's not about Gina."
Beside him, Beckett moves, almost as if it hurts. "Is it about me?"
It seems like he's been waiting for this question forever, at least since he started working with her three years ago, but he's still never managed to figure out what he should say.
"No," he says, because he thinks he should. And then, "Yes," because it's the truth. He can't stay here forever in this in-between world of loving her and not having her.
"I thought you would be glad that I'm not going to be writing about you anymore."
She seems startled by this, but she's heard worse, heard about death, and had to recover quickly, so she does again. She's spent her whole life learning to deal with pain and loss and darkness, and has trained herself to do it so well that she can make it seem beautiful.
"I never wanted your words, Castle." Her tone is sharp and bitter. "All you do is string them together and make them sound beautiful."
She slides off the barstool, a whirl of black and the disappearing flicker of sharp, sparkling things.
"What did you want?" he asks.
She turns to him only before leaving. "I wanted you."
The pounding on the door begins at 330am. She's still up, can't sleep and isn't surprised, and thinks it could be Mrs. McKinnon from down the hall who has been coming to her every time her tv set goes out. She's the police, but there are certain things even she can't fix, and technological glitches, coffee machines, and broken hearts top the list.
She opens the door slowly, by habit, with her gun in her hand.
He stands there as certainly as she's ever seen him, his eyes steely-blue.
"No words," Castle tells her as he comes towards her and kisses her like he's always wanted to, without hesitation, without reservation. He takes her against him and the fabric of their clothes, his jacket, her shirt, rush against each other. They stick.
They've been through a lot together, two books, a movie, countless cases and convictions, a few late orders of take-out, a couple parties and stakeouts, one blown up apartment, and misunderstandings and unrequited looks galore. But now, despite it all, they're both here, together, and they're wrapped into one another as if this is the way it should have been all along.
"Castle – " There's a question in her voice somewhere, as if she wants to make sure he's certain.
"No words," he whispers again, and all he hears is the drawn-out mesh of her breath as his hands slip beneath the soft cotton of her shirt. She puts down the gun.
She's like concrete, something so certain and so strong, something so apt to crumble and disintegrate with the right stress, to buckle at the touch of certain pressure. Underneath it all, she's fragile, he knows it, and sometimes he doesn't remember it quickly enough.
She tastes like mint, a little like toothpaste or chapstick, and they kiss until they have no breath left. Her lips are wet, her eyes dark, as she takes him into her bedroom and for just a second, they stand looking at each other, wondering if this is really happening, finally. Then she reaches for him, pulls the bespoke white jacket from his shoulders, fitted and tailored in all the right places. She lets it fall to the floor and she can smell the red rosebud, just beginning to wilt, pinned to his perfect lapel.
She pulls the silk tie from around his neck, and then she undoes the buttons of his shirt, one by one, stripping him layer by layer until he's bare, recognizable again, familiar. Then he does the same for her, and they kick off the rest of their clothes as if they could shed their very selves. And maybe they do, maybe they become human, only two people who need each other. It could be that simple, if only they let it be.
His fingers are warm on her skin, as he touches the long gold necklace looped around her neck. He's only seen it close but once or twice, and now he can see where there are kinks in the metalwork, the worn links that have been pulled out of shape, the circlet of gold that is her mother's ring at the bottom. He traces the entire length of the chain against her skin, the soft bend of her neck where the ends of her hair are, the hard ridges of her collarbones, ends at the fullness of her breasts. He doesn't need words for this, wouldn't even know what to say, but when he pulls the weight from her and sets it carefully on the dresser near her father's watch, her eyes tell him everything he needs to know.
She touches his face, and pulls him to the bed with her. He kisses everywhere his fingers touched, everywhere he can think. He likes the sound she makes when he licks the bend of her elbow with his tongue, the ticklish hollow there, and even more, when he sucks the hard tips of her nipples. She has an old scar across the flat of her stomach, knotted together with puckered stitches he can still see in her flesh, and he wants to ask what happened, but her hands are tangled in his hair as he moves lower, moves deeper. She's impatient, he can feel it in her as he touches her, and he admits he is too. When she pulls him back to her, into her, they both gasp.
Outside there is the faint screech of a police siren somewhere in the distance, but here in this room, she is in his arms and they are moving together as if they always have, and maybe they had and hadn't known it.
He watches the slide of their bodies against each other, the lift and sink her hips against his, loses himself in this great wild thing between them. It comes too fast, he can't help it, but when he collapses against her, he feels the seamless beat of her heart against his. And that's everything he ever wanted.
"Why?" Beckett asks. The morning light is breaking blue and bold through her window. They are curled together, his arm around her waist, mooring her to him.
"Did you know that a good cocktail should always have qualities of a lady?" he asks her, because it's the only way he can think to approach this, because he trusts F. Scott, because perhaps speakeasies make things like this simple, as they should be. "Beguiling, balanced, bittersweet and – " he takes a breath before he speaks, " – always leave you wanting more."
She's silent, waiting. She waits for him to speak as if she has the patience to do so. Maybe she does.
"I wanted more."
"Really?" she asks, her legs twined between his, the smooth curl of her back against his chest. "What did you want?"
"I wanted you."
He feels her smile as she kisses him, as they tangle in her sheets brushed with the palette of dawn.
They walk into the precinct building together and get in the elevator like nothing's changed. She doesn't think it has, much, but she can feel him beside her, jittery, as he holds two large cappuccinos. She's fairly certain he's going to drop one, or both.
"Speak easy, Castle," she says, calm and so certain, as the lines of her mouth turn up in a smile. "Speak easy."
"But it's all different now." There's something like wonder in his voice.
"Is it?" she asks, and gives him one of those sideways looks to see what he's doing and if he's alright. "I loved you long before last night."
The elevator doors pop open, and just like that she walks off. Esposito and Ryan greet her and they tell her about a new case.
"I didn't take the offer," he calls after her. She turns slowly.
"Why not?" Her eyes are beautiful, brown like heartwood and maple sugar, things solid and sweet, and that is answer enough.
He walks over and hands her the second coffee, as if no one is staring at them. She takes the papers from Esposito and together they walk through to her desk. She sits in her seat, he in his. He has enough research to write fifty Nikki Heat books, and maybe he will.
"I had a better one."
She's relaxed, he's not, but they're drinking coffee together at her desk like they always do, like they're going to make this work. Like nothing's changed, and maybe it hasn't. He loves her, and she wants to see where this going, wants to read ahead but forces herself to keep to the present chapter. She'll know soon enough, and as always, she'll figure out the ending long before she reads it.