Nowhere Near Soon or Often Enough

by Tanya Reed

Spoilers: This story contains major spoilers for the end of Jim Butcher's Changes. If you haven't read it, but you are planning on reading it in the future, you will probably want to stay away from this story. It also contains small spoilers for the story "Aftermath" in Jim Butcher's book Side Jobs. As far as I know there are no spoilers for Castle.

Notes: I'm listing this as a Castle/Dresden Files crossover even though it isn't a true crossover. The characters from the Dresden Files universe are still fiction in this, but they play enough of a role in the story that Dresden Files deserved equal billing. If you haven't read the Dresden Files, this story might be a little confusing to you, but I just had to write it. The whole time I was reading the series, I kept seeing the parallels between it and Castle. Anyway, if you stumble on it, buried in the crossovers section, I hope that you like it. Oh! And thanks to my betas, Mark_Clark and blueninja33 for having a look at this before I posted it. I really, really appreciate it.

Disclaimer: I do not own Castle. All rights to it belong to ABC. I do not own the Dresden Files. All rights to them belong to Jim Butcher.

XX

Kate Beckett came into her apartment and flung her jacket over a chair. She slipped off her shoes and went into the kitchen purposely avoiding any glances towards the living room and the adventure waiting there for her.

She quickly made herself a sandwich, thinking about the torture of the day. It had been a long one, filled with boring paperwork and not one interesting detail to take her mind off of the fact that she had only twenty-five pages left in the series that had taken over most of her free hours for the past two months. She had to stop reading at a particularly exciting part that morning, and it was all she had thought of all day. Castle hadn't even been there to distract her.

Castle. He had been the one to introduce her to the Dresden Files. Amazing, he had told her. Detective novels with a supernatural twist. She had taken them, skeptical and reluctant, not realizing that once she picked them up, there was no way she'd be able to put them down.

She loved the character of Karrin Murphy. In fact, Kate saw a lot of herself in Karrin. They shared a dedication to the job and a way of looking at the world. It didn't matter that Karrin's murders were supernatural in origin or that she saw more horror over ten years than Kate would in a lifetime. Her favorite part about Karrin was that, any time she believed someone was in danger, she would grab her gun and face it, no matter how terrified she was. It was her job, and she never wavered. In fact, one of Kate's favorite quotes from the series was one of Karrin's: "I put on the boots...and kicked that monster's ass." (1) She also loved Karrin's relationship with the main character, Harry Dresden.

Harry reminded her a bit of Castle. He was what Castle might have been if life had brutally ripped his soul to shreds, hurting and scarring him so deeply that he would never truly heal. That similarity—the smart tongue, the protective instinct towards women and children that sometimes verged on stupidity, the gentleness, his unconditional love for Murphy—made Kate care very deeply for the character, and she winced every time life dealt him a new blow. She had no idea how he'd get out of the mess he had found himself in this time. She just knew he only had a few pages to do it.

Putting her sandwich on the table, Kate eagerly retrieved Changes, the most recent book except for a book of short stories (one of the stories taking place after Changes). It was a hardcover, but Kate promised herself she'd be careful and not get any of her sandwich on Castle's book.

As she ate, she immersed herself in the end of the final battle. She gasped and stopped chewing as Harry was forced to kill Susan, the woman he had loved for so long. Her heart ached for him.

With that, the battle was over. Harry was alone with Karrin, and Kate devoured the words hungrily. Though she would never admit it to Castle, she secretly pulled for the two of them. Their timing was constantly bad, either one of them was in a relationship or the other, but they had loved each other deeply, as best friends and the only person the other could count on, for over ten years. The fangirl in her squeed as suddenly they finally made the decision. It wasn't long or flowery. Like them, it was blunt. A question asked in jest. A surprisingly serious answer. Karrin left for a shower. Harry stayed and had a shower of his own. The book was over, except for about two pages.

The smile fell from Kate's face, and she felt as if she had been punched in the gut. She literally had to force herself to breathe.

"What?" She said aloud, stunned.

And the book ended. Harry Dresden was dead.

Forgetting both her empty plate and Changes on the table, Kate frantically went to find Side Jobs. It was lying on the floor by her couch with the rest of the series.

"No," she told herself. "It can't end like that. It can't."

Finding the book, she flipped ahead to the last story, "Aftermath". The story was, for the first time, from Karrin's point of view.

Within the first few sentences, Kate knew Harry wasn't going to be in the story. As far as she—or the characters, for that matter—knew, Dresden was really dead. Karrin had to fight the big nasty on her own. This was going to be a story about learning to live without your best friend.

Kate threw herself on the couch, not wanting to stop reading now that she had started. The story wasn't that long, and she needed to know what happened. She read as one of Harry's friends came to Karrin for help because she was the one Harry trusted most. She read as the two of them took off to rescue his kidnapped wife.

And then she got to a couple of paragraphs that made her stop reading. Hot tears pricked Kate's eyes, and she took a shaky breath. The words blurred in front of her, growing fuzzy. It was just a couple of simple sentences. Karrin knew Harry was not as untouchable as his powerful presence made him seem because she had touched him. But she hadn't touched him soon enough. She hadn't touched him often enough. And now she never would. (2)

Kate read the words again and felt a tear slide down her cheek. More tears followed the first, and she had to put the book aside because she couldn't see the words.

As the tears continued to slowly fall, Kate began to feel foolish. These were imaginary characters out of the brain of an author just like Castle. Granted, she had been spending a huge amount of time with them over the past two months, and she felt as if she knew them. Even so, she hadn't cried when Harry died. She had felt shocked and breathless but not sad. Not like this. Why had that simple passage made her feel as if she had lost her own best friend?

Then, it came to her. She sat up straight, brushing her drying tears from her face. The pain. She knew where it was coming from.

She saw too much of herself in Karrin, too much of Castle in Harry. Their relationships were so similar. Two best friends, afraid and full of denial. Karrin's feelings for Harry struck a chord in Kate. When Karrin had finally admitted to herself that maybe she and Harry could have so much more, she had lost him. It had all been too late. What would that be like, Kate wondered. What if she lost Castle before she had the chance to tell him how much she cared about him? That he was her best friend? That she didn't know what she would do without him in her life? Would she be regretting that she hadn't touched him soon enough or often enough? Would the memories she had of him be enough to last the rest of her life?

Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than to hear his voice. She needed to assure herself that, for her, at least, it was not too late. Not that she was ready to hurtle over the edge to see what was on the other side. It was not her time to touch Castle or try to admit whatever her feelings were for him. It wasn't even time to figure out what those feelings were exactly. The time was coming, though. In the back of her mind, and in her heart, she knew it. She would not wait ten years. She was not prepared to reach out to touch him only to find him gone forever. She was determined that she would not live with Karrin's regret.

For now, though, Kate would be satisfied with a phone call. Hearing his voice would sooth the faint sense of panic she felt behind the sadness. With one light remark, she knew, he could make her smile again.

"Castle."

It turned out that he didn't even have to make a quip to make her smile. "Hi, it's me."

"Yes, I saw that. What's up? Dead body?"

"No. Nothing like that. I finished Changes."

"So, did you love the series? Was I right? Do I know what you like or what?"

"Why didn't you warn me, Castle?"

"I didn't want to ruin it for you." He knew exactly what she was talking about, of course, and he sounded entirely unapologetic. "But did you love it?"

"Yes," Kate admitted reluctantly.

She heard a grin in his voice as he said, "I knew it!"

"Listen, I'm calling for a reason."

"Besides telling me you're upset that I didn't warn you about Harry?"

"I guess I can forgive you for that. I can move on. I was wondering if you were up for grabbing a drink at The Old Haunt...if you don't have pl..."

"Sure!" He cut her off. "Mother and Alexis are gone for the evening. If I would have known Harry's death would drive you into taking me for a drink, I'd have forced the books on you months ago."

"Don't read too much into it, Castle. I'm just bored, and I feel like getting out of the apartment. I can call Lanie if you don't want to come."

"Of course, I want to come." He sounded hurt. She couldn't tell if it was real or feigned.

"Good. I'll meet you there in a half an hour. Don't be late."

She smiled again as she hung up the phone, her sadness gone. As she got up from the couch, her eyes landed on Odd Jobs. Tomorrow, she'd open it again and find out how Karrin could possibly live without Harry. Tonight was for her and Castle, and who knew where it would lead.

The End

XX

(1) Not a direct quote, but close enough to reference. This is from Summer Knight by Jim Butcher. All rights to these words belong to him.

(2) The last four lines in this paragraph summarize a passage in Jim Butcher's short story "Aftermath" from the book Side Jobs. All rights to the original idea behind these words belong to Butcher.