final part, i think. thank you all so much for reading, makes me feel all happy and worthwhile and like i can actually write and things. x
Josh was already looking for a problem when she opened the door, and she immediately regretted leaving such a simple message on his voicemail – can you come to my place? I need to talk to you about something didn't leave a lot to think about – then the guilt rose again as he asked what was wrong and all that appeared to be on his mind was concern for hypothermia, for post-traumatic stress, medical disorders. Not matters of the more metaphorical heart, the penitence that was wired along all her thoughts of him and she was sure was etched all over her face.
It felt more like an apology than anything else; even though she knew he was at fault too. She had already taken a box and put all of the things he had accumulated around her place in it, even before he'd arrived, before she had called him, and it leaned as an extra weight on her mind as she explained everything after she invited him in.
She watched his face, confusion dissipating to resignation the further she got; her explanations becoming more like confessions and when she finished he just sighed, pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"Sorry it didn't work out."
For hours after Josh leaves she just sits, aimlessly watches infomercials and drifts in and out of sleep. Somewhere, she knows that this was the right decision. Somewhere, a weight has lifted. But she has still just broken up with someone who has been in her life the last six months (is it six? It's hard to even remember) and there is an ache that is not being cured by dozing and late night TV. That persistent cold settles back down in her, starts hibernating in the hollows.
It's past midnight but she calls him anyway.
His voice gravels over the line, heavy with sleep, but his worry is apparent. "Have you been dreaming again?"
"Calm down, Castle, I haven't even been to sleep yet."
She rolls her eyes at the sharp edge to his question. "Rough evening, that's all."
It's uncanny, his ability to know exactly what she's talking about from one vague sentence, but she has come to expect both it and the subsequent needling that usually follows.
She deflects, even though she knows he'll see right through it. "No, the television almost convinced me to buy a Magic Bullet."
"We broke up."
"I'll be there in twenty." He hangs up without giving her a chance to protest, and she sighs, supposing she'll just have to wait an extra twenty minutes to berate him. She ignores the small part of her that is quietly grateful.
"I know it's not entirely the right situation but I figure you're in the camp that believes Chinese food can never go amiss."
Castle slides past her into her apartment, and she doesn't fail to notice the overnight bag he's carrying though she doesn't mention it.
He sets everything down, turns toward her, moves in just a fraction too close. His voice is low. "Look, I know I shouldn't have come, I realised after I hung up that you never pushed anything about Gina and I should have extended you the same courtesy."
She goes to reply, but he continues before she can open her mouth.
"But I then I remembered that you don't talk to people. They have to pry things out of you with a pair of reinforced steel pliers and even then you only say the barest minimum of what you really want to. So I came over anyway."
He wants to touch her, she can see it in the way his gaze rakes over her face, he'd like to gather her up in the same way he would to comfort his daughter if she were standing in Beckett's place. To stop herself from letting him, she turns away.
"I'm okay, Castle."
"You're okay because you know you did the right thing or you're okay because you're managing to not throw a punch at the wall?" He follows her as she slumps to the couch, perches on the edge to study her.
"Would you believe me if I said both?"
Yes, because he has been here too. He settles back into the couch, his knee brushing against hers.
It strikes her that every time he has come to her apartment it has been for her – gestures of kindness and concern without asking for anything in return, and somehow this makes it even harder to voice what it is she wants to say. I did it because of you are not words she strings together for many people in this context, and it comes under a list of confessions she's still not sure she's ready to make to him. But there is one she does admit.
"I never told Josh anything about my mother."
Castle doesn't say anything, but she can feel him watching her.
"I never told him anything about anything, really, and I guess I realised how unfair that was."
She looks to him but he remains silent for a moment, just searches out something in her face and her heart flutters, bird in a cage. "How did he take it?"
"Well. Much better than I would have if I was in his place."
He nods, drops his gaze.
"Castle? You're being unnervingly quiet. Shouldn't you be... I don't know, making inappropriate comments about how we're both single now?"
She's concerned - Castle is never not talking, never one to pass up an opportunity to add a little levity and yet he's offering nothing that gives a clue to his opinion. She prods.
"Surely there's a joke in there somewhere about how it'd be a waste if we didn't test it out?" She knows it's dangerous, getting so close to what she wants to articulate herself, but she needs that anchor of lewd suggestions, inappropriate humour, him being Castle.
His eyes meet hers, and she sees him swallow. "Beckett." The expression he has is reminiscent of the day before, the seconds before the drop into saying something real.
His phone trills. Looking at it, he murmurs Alexis and frowns, taking the call
"Are you okay, pumpkin? It's late." He stands, moves away (steps back from the edge), and Beckett heads for the kettle. Catching Castle's eye she holds up two mugs and mouths tea? He nods.
She pours water over the teabags in their respective mugs and watches the steam rise, hears him come up behind her.
"Alexis okay?" she asks, not turning around.
"Yeah, apparently I forgot to turn the kitchen light off when I left and she saw it when she came down for some water."
Beckett doesn't need him to finish, she can readily imagine the anxiousness that would have come over his daughter as she realised her father's room was empty in the middle of the night.
The tea darkens, and she doesn't know how to go back to where they were.
Castle pipes up. "How many bets do you think will be in the pool when everyone finds out you broke up with Josh?"
She turns, cracks a grin, and he smiles back. "Honestly, I'm afraid to know. Do you think they'll manage the whole precinct this time?"
"It wouldn't surprise me in the least."
Sloshing in milk and two sugars (the latter for him) she hands Castle his tea then sips at her own.
"I'm sorry for before." He pauses, and she sees his knuckles whiten around his mug. His voice shakes minutely when he continues. "It's just... I keep thinking about how you've almost died twice in the last few days."
Something around her heart twists. Not I, not even we. This is about her and how he feels and he might as well have said I almost lost you for all the difference it makes to her in this moment, regarding his admission over a cup of tea.
Her voice is low. "So have you."
He shakes his head. "I have a family who don't want to let me out of their sight. Have you even talked to your dad since we found out about the bomb? Since you arrested Lockwood?"
She remembers the way he looked at her across the precinct the other day, ignoring everything Fallon said to the group of cops; his only focus her, standing alone beside her desk. It was that knack again, the one that made her think he knew exactly what was on her mind. Who would I call about a bomb?
"No." Her half-empty cup plunks to the counter beside her, and she crosses her arms in an attempt to shield something from him and the way he's making her feel so unearthed.
"And you dumped the guy who decided to stick around for you."
"I'm fine, Castle."
He looks almost angry at her response, setting his own cup down next to him and taking a step toward her.
"That's what you're giving me, Beckett? After everything that's happened in the last two days you're fine?"
Twice she's called him in the middle of the night and only now has he really questioned, dug to know her motivations. He is so good at giving her an out that it's almost startling, goading that this time he doesn't.
So she takes a step forward, curls her fingers around his lapels and pulls his mouth to hers. He only hesitates for a moment, then his hands slide over her jaw and he drags his tongue across her lips, laves it into her mouth when she parts them. Desperation is what he kisses her with, his hands moving to haul at her waist, pressing her into him, his fingers finding the heat of her skin. I almost lost you emptied into a kiss, everything they won't say spoken in the breath between their mouths. He crowds, her back hits the line of the counter and she pushes back, fabric roughing between them as her teeth bite at his lip, his fingers clutching into her hair.
When he pulls away her whole body feels like livewire, jolting with panting breaths, her hands fisted into the back of his shirt. A fire burns.
"Josh may have stuck around once but who's to say he would again? He's not the one who is always there, and I told him that." She brings one of her hands back around to his chest, watches her fingers smooth down the lines of his shirt.
He clears his throat. "What else did you tell him?"
"Near death experiences have this capacity to put a lot of things in perspective; that I didn't think I could stay with him if my heart wasn't in it anymore." She knows she's talking without really saying anything, but she looks up and thinks he probably understands anyway, his hand on her face pulling her in so he can kiss her again, slow and careful.
This time when he stops he grins, and her eyes narrow.
"So I guess this means you're on the rebound."
She slaps his chest. "You're insufferable." Then she smiles, trails a finger along his collarbone. "I need some time to get my head around this, okay? And I need you to not have doubts about me so I think this is as far as it can go right now."
"I'm not sure it's possible to have doubts about you, Kate Beckett."
"Castle, this isn't like doubting whether I can break a suspect or aim my gun at the right spot, it's something you can't see, and that makes it even more treacherous to mess with."
He nods, sighs. "Can we at least watch infomercials until you fall asleep? I want the number for one of those crazy steam mop things."
She steps away, rolling her eyes. "I think we both need to go to bed. You have this terrible habit of keeping me up lately, and I'd like to go to work in the morning."
Feigning a wound in his chest, Castle heads for the couch, then twists on his heel. "Hey, does this mean I can make appreciative comments about your ass in the precinct? We could help along the bets..."
"In your dreams."
He flops onto the cushions, pulls her blanket over him. "Yes, I'm sure they will be."
Grabbing another blanket from the linen cupboard, she throws it at his face and switches out the light. "Goodnight, Castle."
"Until tomorrow, Detective."
Shutting her door, she smiles, the last of the cold heating to warmth around her bones.