Beckett took off running after him immediately, leaving her coat, her bag; everything she had on her desk. She wrenched open the doors to the stairwell, not willing to wait for the elevator and she flew down, taking two steps at a time. She burst through the ground floor exit and wished for once in her life, she hadn't worn her high heeled boots because hell, she certainly was paying for that now.
A quick glance around told her she'd either just missed him, or he hadn't left the precinct yet and she allowed herself some time to catch her breath.
She needed to talk to him. Change his mind. Make him come back. Something. Anything.
Flashes of a 'could-be' future played in her mind's eye. Getting to work (without Castle), getting her morning dose of caffeine (without Castle), building theory with her boys (but without Castle), teasing her boys (without Castle) – and honest to God, it felt as if her heart had been ripped out of her chest. She clutched at the top of her shirt, willing the pain to subside for a second while she gathered her thoughts.
Stop panicking, think. Where would he have gone, Beckett?
The answer to that seemed to be 'no where'. From her position slumped against the wall of the entrance of the building, she saw his figure slowly making its way out onto the street. His hand was half raised, ready to hail down a cab.
She meant for it to be a loud yell, but all she managed was a hoarse whisper, and it was then that she noticed her laboured breathing, her trembling hands and the damp trails down her face from the tears that had managed to escape. She really needed to get a hold of herself.
"Castle!" she tried calling, but once again to no avail. She pushed off from the wall and took off in a running walk in his direction.
He obviously heard her footsteps, turning around as soon as she got close enough to him narrowly.
"I don't want you gone, Castle," was all she managed to get out before she let out a strangled sob. God damn traitorous emotions.
No, she will not cry.
Nevertheless, the unwanted tears streaked down her cheeks and she gritted her teeth in an attempt to stop more from flowing. Castle stood in front her, rooted to the spot encased in his own brand of fury and all Beckett could think of was how she'd hurt this man so badly that he was willing to walk away from their partnership. Just like that.
They stared at each other in a long silence, letting the night wind blow at them before Castle raised his hand and ran it through his hair.
"You didn't say anything. I thought it would have been better if I left. I … I didn't want to break anything else," he said quietly. His eyes were still blazing, fists still clenched and his body so tense and rigid as if he was fighting the urge to walk away from her.
"I don't want you to leave," she repeated shakily. Me, she added mentally.
"Then what do you want from me, Kate?"
He was less angry now, almost gentle as if the sight of her tears had broken through his haze of red anger. Beckett couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze, so she opted for the next best thing. She wiped the wetness from her cheeks with the back of her hands and bit her lip.
She took a step forward. "I just … "
She exhaled. Another step forward, and suddenly she was being pressed into his warm body. His arms curled around her, cocooning her in his warm scent and she gasped at the sudden contact.
"I don't want to leave either, Kate. But you're making it so hard trying to stay," he whispered harshly into her hair.
She gripped his dress shirt in her fists, pulled and twisted on them as though it would help her get even closer to him. She felt his biceps tighten awkwardly around her, and she buried herself deeper into his heat.
"I don't know what you want from me, Kate." His hands started rubbing circles against her back. "I just need to know what you want."
She pulled back a little, satisfied that she would be able to keep a relatively steady composure. His posture was still stiff and unyielding, but his eyes were now back to their normal colour, gentle, raw with emotions, soft and pleading.
It was as if seeing him like that unlocked some hidden vault within her, and suddenly she wanted him to know – needed him to know everything .The truth flowed from her far too easily for her liking, but steeled her nerves and soldiered on. He deserved nothing less from her.
"I don't know why I didn't tell you, Rick. I just needed … wanted to deal with it myself. I'm sorry," she said calmly.
"I'm so sorry," she reiterated. "I never meant to hurt you."
She felt his hand cup the back of her neck, gently massaging the area before he stepped back.
"But you did."
It was as if he'd delivered a painful blow to her gut. Castle was being merciless tonight. Merciless, or dreadfully honest.
"You were right, Rick."
It was out of her mouth before she could stop it. Beckett swallowed at her confession, simultaneously horrified and relieved at finally being able to admit it, both to him and to herself.
"You're like this unstoppable force in my life, and you keep pushing and pushing. Sometimes I feel like you've pushed me so hard that I'm just going with you, flowing, and moving, and sometimes I really don't like it. It feels like I don't have control and I'm scared that if I – scared that I'll lose everything and I just … need to stop for a second. Take a breath, but I don't want you to stop … I don't want to lose any more that I can spare."
Beckett realised she was rambling now, barely able to filter the words that were tumbling out of her mouth. She knew she was barely making sense, but she was counting on his uncanny knack of getting her, understanding her the way no one else could.
"You keep telling me what you don't want, Kate. I asked you what you wanted. From me," he refused to meet her gaze, instead focusing on some spot behind her. Beckett could see he was struggling to get his words out, adamant on sticking to some script he had in his head so closely. He wasn't going to let his emotions get the better of him, not after that shameful outburst in the precinct.
She fixed her eyes on his features, his face set into a grim frown, noticing the lines in his face, the bags under his eyes and once again the guilt of knowing she had been the one to cause it crashed into her in waves.
"I want …" She faltered, now finding herself unable to put into words what she desperately wanted him to know. She stepped back from him, leaving a good distance between them so that she was no longer swimming in his warmth. She took a deep breath. In. Out. And she just let the words pour out of her heart.
"I just want you to be here for me. Every day, just here. Next to me. I want you to have my back, even when I say I don't need you around. I want to see you in the morning, and share a coffee with you. I want to … I want," she paused, on the verge of saying 'you' and in her heart; she knew she wasn't quite ready for that step yet.
Keep breathing, Katie.
"I don't think I'm ready for anything more than that, but I know I will be some day, Rick. And I know that when that time comes, it's going to be you."
Suddenly, as Beckett finished in a voice barely louder than a whisper, it was as though the dark cloud that had been threatening to swallow Castle whole over the last few weeks had finally broke, and he was now bathing in the soft drizzle of pleasant rain that was Kate Beckett.
Her heart was still racing and thumping ridiculously loudly beneath her chest. Castle blinked wordlessly at her, as though he was still processing what she was saying. And yet, she could feel the calm already settling over them. She watched as he opened his mouth then shut it again, seemingly at a loss for words.
She inched closer to him, now craving his heat again and reached out to smoothen the creases she had caused in his shirt before, running her palms gently over his chest.
"I … I mean it, Rick. I just need a little more time before I start … anything with you. I have no doubts that we'd be amazing together, experience has shown me that," she told him softly and willed him to look at her. "But I need – you need to know that when I'm ready, you will most likely be it for me. And that scares the hell out of me, which is why I need time. But when I'm ready, I hope … I want …"
She tapered off, suddenly feeling self-conscious about asking what she wanted to ask of him. Was she being selfish? Asking him to wait for her while she got over her irrational and ridiculous hang ups; who was she to tell him what to do? Wasn't this part of the reason he had gotten so angry in the first place?
"I'll wait for you, Kate."
It was as if he could read her mind. His voice was low, husky from the yelling he'd done before, but this time it was laced with the warmth and comfort she always associated with him. He was staring at her so intimately, as if he could see right past her soul, and for once in her life, Beckett didn't feel uncomfortable with it.
"You won't have to wait too long," she said, and after a beat, she added a tentative "I hope."
Castle pulled her in for another hug, enveloping her once more in his warm embrace. "As long as you know it's me that you want, Kate, I can wait forever," he whispered against her hair and he placed a soft kiss on her temple.
She found herself smiling into her partner's shirt, inhaling his unique scent, seeking all the comfort she could get from the man that she once swore she'd never, ever fall for. Suddenly, everything that had felt so uncomfortably wrong over the last month or so righted itself, like the jagged pieces of an unfinished puzzle falling into place to form one beautiful, complete picture.
And it really wasn't a secret that Kate Beckett was a complete sucker for finished puzzles.
A/N: I'm never one for author's notes because I tend to ramble on and on, but since this is now complete, eh, why not. First and foremost, all mistakes are mine. Every single one, right from the first chapter. Sometimes I write in the dead of the night, so even after a meticulous (I think anyway) combing through the fic, some things get past me. Just let me know if there are some glaring mistakes and I shall rectify them.
I started this piece ages and ages ago, before the remarkable genius that was the finale of the season. I'm not going to lie – I spent ages contemplating what to do with this because the canon has obviously taken the series to a whole new level of awesome and this story just lies … in the middle of it somewhere. So I decided that a little AU won't hurt and that's what I started aiming for.
I think my Kate-voice is winning over my Rick-voice. I tend to favour writing in her perspective, and I'd love to hear what people think of it or if I need to branch out and tackle some other writing style.
I have completed a few chapters for what I plan to upload as a sequel – although to be honest they were just going to be part of this one. But this fic decided to be one big angst fest – and the chapters that I have written are the total opposite (along the lines of the second chapter of this story). So the way I figure, I'll end this here on a nice, post-angst, hopeful note and start planning for a much more lighthearted (and longer) second instalment.
I'm ecstatic at the amount of feedback I've received from readers, among them from some of the writers that I personally hold in very high regard, so I would love to thank every single one of you who have reviewed, favourite-ed, alerted and even if you've just read it and moved on.
I hope you all have enjoyed the ride so far, and that you'll keep sticking with me for the rest of the journey.
Until tomorrow, folks.