Author: Elliott Silver
Summary: "I don't believe in your happiness," he says.
Author's Note: I've tried to follow the storyline as faithfully as possible (Punked and Anatomy of a Murder airing in October, Knockdown in January) but time is fluid and I've tried to move the story both forward and back since love doesn't hold still.
"Where's Josh?" he asks.
"Oh, he's in Africa," she answers shortly, and too quick. "Saving the world."
She doesn't say more, she's doesn't have to, so he walks through her open door.
He brought flowers that first time in January, he brings wine the next. Then he brings paperwork for a scholarship in her mother's name. That Friday he brings pad thai in little cardboard boxes and the mango sticky rice she likes so much.
They sit together at her table, or on her couch. They talk, they watch tv. They play poker when they drink, and she cleans him out. By this time, she knows all his tells, or just about.
No matter how late it is, and sometimes it's so late he needs three espressos the next morning just to get out of bed, he doesn't stay with her. That's not his right, not now, not yet.
Sometimes Josh calls while he's there. As she escapes into the bedroom, the room he's never seen or shared with her, he wonders what time it is in Africa.
Sometimes she forgets to close the door and he can hear their conversations. Josh tells her about his work in Lusaka, about following the footsteps of David Livingstone, how the spray at Victoria Falls feels like angel's tears. He sends her a beautiful copper bracelet worked by the Nkoya. It arrives at the precinct and she wears it once, but it interferes with the grip on her gun, so she leaves it on the windowsill in her bathroom where it begins to gather dust.
That fall, she glows. Then she begins to break.
Castle goes to her. He goes because he can't stay away, because he doesn't want to. By the end of January, Alexis begins to wonder where he is. His mother knows but she says nothing.
He doesn't care because he's there every time Josh is not. Josh is volunteering for Doctors Without Borders and Ryan tells him that he's doing heart surgeries for children in Zambia. It's one of Angelina Jolie's favorite causes, and such a noble thing that Castle can't hate him, although he really wants to. Josh is smart, handsome, chivalrous. He's everything that Beckett needs, everything she deserves. He calls regularly, he sends amazing flowers (which she puts in the break-room and forgets about), he loves her.
But he's not here, and maybe she needs that more than anything. Josh is an ocean away (7540 air miles to be exact), and that means he, Castle, is the only one there with Beckett, who sometimes needs people more than anyone realizes.
He only met Joshua Delano Davidson once, in October. "Kate hasn't told you about us, has she?" Josh asked him. Esposito later tells him that she met the cardiac surgeon over the summer, when he was in the Hamptons. He realizes there's a lot about those months that she hasn't told him. For neither the first nor the last time, he wishes he hadn't gone.
He knows she loves Josh, in her way, and it's hard to for him to watch, not only because it all unfolds and unravels so quickly. By November, it's clear they are in love, by December, in rapture. But then Josh leaves. Beckett disappears over Christmas, and he only realizes later where she went. Josh left in December for Zambia.
And Josh is gone so much now, more than he should be, that by the new year, it takes a toll on her. He finds out Josh is staying in Zambia indefinitely now, and that he's asked her to join him. Fragile lines appear around her eyes, on her forehead when she frowns. They look like scoring lines, like she's going to crack. He knows she's not sleeping, and every time he comes over, the murder board window is open.
He keeps bringing her coffee. She needs it. He asks if she's ok.
"I'm fine," she snaps. "I'm happy."
"I don't believe in your happiness," he says.
"You don't have to," she answers.
"But I want to."
She looks over at him, and he is afraid he will say all the things he is thinking. So instead he's there the entire winter when Josh is not. He's there for the Triple Killer. He's there when they go after her mother's killers. He's there to kiss her, to create a diversion, to save Ryan and Esposito. She wraps the gauze around his swollen knuckles in the January cold, she thanks him. He knows what she means. He starts going over to her place more often.
He's there when they catch the serial killer in February, and he's there when she gets a little tipsy afterward and needs a ride home that night. He's there when she forgets to eat, and he's there to always make sure she has coffee, even if he has to make it himself. He's there when she gets the flu, and he brings her chicken noodle soup he made himself. He's there to quickly run out for the real stuff after their first taste.
He's there to cover for her too, when Josh flies in unexpectedly for Valentine's Day, and she doesn't show up the next morning. When she appears, he tries not to notice the flush in her cheeks, the purple mark on her throat that not even her turtleneck can quite hide. He gives the roses he bought for her to a girl with dark eyes and windswept hair on the street. He doesn't look back. He's there when Beckett needs him, and Josh reaps the benefits. He can't help feeling a little bitter about that.
But he's also there when she gets shot in March, when she turns red and slippery with blood. He never knew a flesh wound could spill so much, that a heart could pump out so much life, with each beat, until it was as if there was nothing left. She had said to him, "It's different when it happens right in front of you, when you're close enough to watch the lights go out," and she was right. He was there in the street, screaming for backup, he was there pushing Esposito to call it in, he was there in the ambulance, rushing in the emergency ward, white-faced with her doctors. He was there, calling her father and calling Josh, who never answered.
He can't help but despise Josh in that moment, in the moment when he leaves her alone.
So he's there when her father comes, when the nurse arrives, when she wakes, when they let her go home the next morning. There are daffodils blooming in Central Park as they drive by. He's already put some in her apartment.
He fusses, she snaps.
"It's barely a scratch!" she tells him but he stays with her anyway and she doesn't send him away, not even when Josh finally calls, three days later. The stitches are ugly black against the pale edges of her skin as he helps change the bandage on her arm, but the March daffodils are bright and cheerful on her table. They smell like spring, like hope.
They keep working because there's always another murder. He rides in the front seat as she drives too quickly. She wears her gun like a shield, and it works. But he can read her too, knows her tells as well, and he knows she isn't ok.
His mother tells him that this is real life, not one of his books, and that he doesn't know the ending. It's not about the books anymore he says. What the head makes cloudy, the heart makes so clear.
He's not expecting anything when he goes that Thursday in April. He was over the night before, and the one before that. He's been coming over for some three months now, and sometimes he thinks he lives more at her place than his, all except for the few times he knows Josh is there. Then he waits until she appears at work, and when he comes back the rooms smell like candles and strange cologne. But today he hears the voices from the elevators. Several people have opened their doors to gawk, and he somehow shushes them back. He's left alone to listen although he doesn't want to.
"Josh, you don't know anything – "
"And whose fault is that, Katie?"
Castle hates him for calling her Katie, but that's another story. He called her Becks once, and to this day, she still calls him Posh when no one's around.
"I'm leaving for Zambia tomorrow," Josh says without yelling.
"I know," she answers.
There's a breath between them, long and unbearable. Castle hates having a writer's imagination at times like these.
"I'm not coming back," Josh says.
She says his name and he can hear her voice break in that one word, but Josh cuts her off, and it seems brutal, it seems merciful.
"I'll make this easy," he says, and his voice is both bitter and gentle, and maybe that's how much he loves her too. "I'm telling you not to come with me."
There's a long silence, and finally he hears the door open. Castle flattens himself against the wainscoting in the corner so no one will see him.
"Goodbye, Katie," Josh says.
And then there's nothing but his footsteps disappearing down the corridor, and the awful slam of a door closing on her life.
Castle breathes, leaves the corner and goes to her door. He leans against it, and he can hear her tears through the wood panels.
He thinks quickly. He texts her. Can I come over?
He hears the ping of her phone and he can hear her moving towards it.
Not now, she fires back.
Ok, he types. But I'm outside your door.
He hears the ping, and then nothing.
He closes his eyes, presses his forehead to the barrier, and waits.
The door unfurls in front of him so quickly that he almost falls in. She looks the same as always, except her eyes are red, her nose too. She's wearing a green-grey tee shirt, and there are dark drops on the Avalon-colored cotton. She's been crying, and those tears are very real.
She closes the door after him and moves back into the unlit rooms. She turns on a light and it casts her figure in dark shadows.
He doesn't know how to begin, so he just says what he shouldn't.
"Was that Josh I saw?"
"You just can't stay out of my personal life, can you?" The corners of her mouth twist up wryly. She's trying to be sarcastic and it doesn't work, for once.
He looks at her because he can't look away.
"Yeah," she answers softly. And then, "He's gone."
She's brave and strong and beautiful, but not even she can withstand everything, all this.
It's hard to reconcile, this collapse, because she's always the strong one, the one that's in control, the one that never breaks, the one that saves the world. He goes to her, catches her in his arms and wraps her against him so that she isn't alone, so that her sobs are muffled against his chest.
He knows he should be sorry, he knows he should feel badly, but there's just something in him that can't quite summon those feelings, because when he takes her in his arms, it feels as if this is the only place she belongs.
"Why does this always happen to me?" she asks, and her words spill against him like hearts-blood. "Why does everyone I love leave me?"
He can feel her tears, wet through his shirt, and the furious pounding of her pulse. He runs his hands through her tangled hair, and he smoothes the red-brown curling ends. He holds her very close.
When she raises her head, she looks at him through watery eyes.
He puts his hands on both sides of her face, and he wipes away the tears with the pads of his thumbs. He kisses her forehead, just once.
He says, "I won't."
If she hadn't known before, she knows now. She doesn't stop crying but she nods, very slowly. Pain like this doesn't disappear at once, and just because you might be in love with someone doesn't mean it hurts less when you stop loving someone else, or they stop loving you.
Her eyes are dark, her lashes like wet feathers or black paintbrushes. She leans against him, as if she needs him, and when she breathes, he kisses away her tears. He can taste her salt on his tongue. It's awful, but it's beautiful. It's bitter, and it's sweet. It tastes like something he never wanted to happen, and something he always wanted.
They sit on the couch and he tucks her against him. Outside April rain pounds the streets, but inside he holds her until she falls asleep and her breathing, her heart steadies. This time he stays the night with her. Tomorrow he will make her coffee, maybe even pancakes. He will hold her steady on this high-wire life they are living, because without that, they both might fall. They can decide what they both want after that, and maybe he'll kiss her, like he did in that dark parking-lot, as if he'll never stop, and maybe she'll take him by the hand into the bedroom he's never seen. Maybe it'll happen tomorrow, maybe it'll happen a month from now. Maybe it'll never happen and they'll pretend this all away so she can find another prince charming. He doesn't know, but for right now, she's warm against his chest, her breathing even, and he closes his eyes to the sound of her heart.
She once told him that Josh had saved a life before eleven in the morning, and then turned to him and asked what he'd done in that time. He hadn't had an answer, then, but he does now.
He's not saving the world, but he's saving his world.