Title: Because You're Tall
Disclaimer: All I own is an over-active imagination and Microsoft Word.
Summary: Twelve years ago, Johanna Beckett was found in an alley, and Kate Beckett's life crumbled. Since then, one day a year, she closets herself away from the world to remember and to mourn. Today, she has company.
Author's Note: Another one-shot! I don't know where they're coming from, but here it is. This is set between 3x21 and 3x22. Assume that the anniversary of Johanna's death happened in April.
Thank you so much for reading.
Kate turned her head and looked over at the doorway to her bedroom. "Josh, hey," she whispered.
"What's the matter?" he asked, moving slowly toward her. "It's late."
Kate sat up and uncurled herself while wiping at her eyes. "Nothing," she smiled.
"Well, that's a lie," he replied, sitting down next to her on the bed. "You don't cry all that often."
Kate shrugged. "Sometimes you just cry, you know?"
He nodded. "Did you have a hard case? I'm really sorry I couldn't get here earlier."
Kate shook her head. "No, everything's fine. Everyone's fine. I woke up and started crying. Dunno, I'm just tired, I guess."
"Do you want a bath, some ice cream, Midol, a hug? Whatever you need, babe," he said, leaning over to kiss her forehead.
"I just want to go to sleep," she whispered.
He nodded and stood to help her get under the blankets. He walked around the bed and she listened as he shucked out of his clothes and then felt the bed dip behind her. A second later, a warm arm was settling around her stomach and she felt him pressing kisses to her hair and neck.
"Night," she replied.
After a few minutes, Josh fell asleep. Kate stared out at her dark bedroom. It was just passed four. Her mother had been stabbed and killed 12 years ago. She hadn't been hugged, kissed, cuddled, talked to, yelled at, reasoned with or comforted by her mother in 12 years. Kate felt the tears begin to slip down her cheeks again.
She hadn't expected Josh to show up. He'd had a late shift, again, and hadn't been sure that he'd make it back. She'd assumed that he'd crash at his apartment. Obviously, that wasn't the case.
She didn't have to go in to work. She was taking a 'sick day,' just like she did every year on this day. She'd told Montgomery and the boys, so no one would call or expect her to show up in the morning. She snuffled as quietly as possible. She hadn't been planning on having company.
As she felt her ability to stay silent slip away, she got up and tiptoed out of the room, grabbing her NYPD sweatshirt as she did. She curled up on the couch and wrapped herself in a blanket and let the tears fall.
She was numb with pain, just like always. She continued to breathe, and think, and hear, and see, and smell, but her mother was dead. Her mother would be dead when she got married. Her mother would be dead when she got pregnant. Her mother would be dead when she gave birth. Her mother would be dead when her daughter got married. Her mother would always be dead, and Kate would be alive, living without her.
She sniffled and let her head fall into the pillows to her side. She lay there, curled up in a ball, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, for a long time. A light ring broke her out of her stupor an hour later and she uncurled and blinked at the coffee table. Her cell was still where she'd left it last night. She reached for it and opened her messages.
Kate just stared at her phone, confusion winning out over every other feeling.
What are you doing awake, Castle?"
She set the phone down and glanced back into her bedroom. Josh was still fast asleep.
Just awake, I guess. I take it you're up?
Kate rolled her eyes.
She looked down at the phone in her hand. Of course Castle would know what today was. She hadn't told him that she would be 'sick' today, but he already knew. Her gaze landed on the closed set of shades across the room. He'd helped her add to the murder board after the Raglan case, and he'd gotten her new lights for it. He'd offered to get her a white board, or a smart board, but they both decided that the homemade murder board had a sort of charm— 'a monument to her mother,' he'd called it.
Do you need anything?
Kate looked at the message. She'd never let anyone spend the day with her on…on the anniversary of her mother's death. She and her father exchanged a tense phone call in the evening, but other than that, she was always alone. Josh would leave in a few hours, for which she was very grateful.
She shook her head. That was horrible; she shouldn't be grateful that her boyfriend had to leave in a few hours.
She looked back at the phone. Did she need anything from Castle? Would it be all right to want something from him? He'd make her laugh, and he'd be more than happy to go through pictures with her, she was sure. In fact, he'd probably force her to talk about her good memories of her Mom. He'd been there with her through two cases about her Mom, and she remembered that after both, she'd been so grateful for his presence. She wouldn't have made it without him there. She felt herself smile.
Wanna come over at 10 and look at pictures?
She typed it out and hesitated for a second before sending the message. She let out a breath. When had he become the only person in the world that she wanted to share this with? When had he become the only person in the world that she trusted enough to ask for something like this?
A harsh beeping broke her out of her trance. Josh's hospital pager was going off, and she could hear him cursing in the other room as he stumbled about. She sighed. He was only running on about an hour of sleep.
She wiped her eyes and nose and waited. He came out of the bedroom and spotted her on the couch.
"Are you sure you're okay, Kate?" he asked as he slipped on his shoes.
"I'm fine. I just couldn't fall back to sleep," she lied.
He nodded, came over, kissed her briefly, and then was gone. If she'd said, "No, my Mom was murdered twelve years ago today, and I miss her and have been crying since close to two this morning," would he have stayed?
Her phone pinged.
I'd love to. You gonna be okay until then? I could bring you a bear claw now.
Breakfast sounds good.
She leaned back and let the phone drop to the couch next to her. She realized that she should probably change. She was wearing short-shorts and her hoodie. She hadn't bothered to dry her hair last night, so it was currently falling out of her hair tie. Her face was puffy and her eyes were probably red.
Josh hadn't noticed, but Castle would. He also wouldn't care. Or he'd hug her. She was fine with both of those options. Her fingers wandered up to the necklace she was still wearing. She took it out from beneath her sweatshirt and slipped her pinky through the ring.
"Oh Mom, I wish you were here," she whispered to the empty room. "I wish I could ask you what to do about them."
Kate wasn't stupid. She knew that Castle had more than partnerly feelings for her. And she knew that she reciprocated them. And Josh…Josh was her boyfriend. None of it made sense.
She stared around the room until a gentle knock broke the silence. Kate got up and went to the door. Castle's smiling face greeted her, along with a cup of coffee and a large bouquet of colorful flowers.
"Hey," he said quietly. "I just thought…"
"Thanks," she smiled, taking the outstretched flowers. She opened the door and went to find a vase while he closed the door and took off his coat. He joined her in the kitchen and placed the bag with her bear claw on the counter. She filled a vase and arranged the flowers inside it. They were her favorites, just like last time. How had he figured that out?
"How are you?" he asked when she finally turned to look at him.
Kate shrugged. "Physically, I'm completely fine."
He gave her a sad smile and gestured toward the couch, bringing the pastry bag and his coffee with him. "How are you really?" he asked once they were seated.
Kate toyed with her mug. "Twelve years is a long time."
She looked over at him. He was turned toward her, one leg up next to him and his head resting on the arm he'd slung over the back of the couch. He was watching her, equal measures of concern, affection, understanding and sadness passing across his eyes— eyes that looked into her— eyes that knew her secrets.
"I miss her," Kate admitted quietly. "And it's not all the time, you know? I'm past that…I think. But recently, with the case and just getting older, I miss her more."
"You're getting to the age where most people reconnect with their parents," he said gently.
"Yeah." She felt a tear slip down her cheek. When had she started crying again? "I just…you know, someday, I wanna have kids and a husband and a family, right? And I'm going to look around and they're only going to have a grandfather. And when I need help getting my gown or learning to burp my baby, I won't…I won't have anyone to go to."
She looked down as she felt herself begin to cry in earnest. "I just…I feel so ridiculous, because I'm over thirty, and recently all I've been thinking is, 'God, I want my mom.' But it's not like I can have her, you know? I don't get to ask for help and then not take her advice. I don't get to listen to what Mr. Marks is doing next door and pretend I have something to do so that I can get off the phone. I don't even get to undervalue my mother, because if she were here, I'd never leave her side."
She put her cup down and pulled her knees to her chest. "I miss her so God damned much, Castle."
She glanced up and watched him as he made a decision. Suddenly there were arms wrapping around her and she felt a slight pressure on the top of her head as he rested his cheek on her hair. "I'm so sorry, Kate," he whispered.
She nodded against his head and let herself cry. His arms were warm and strong around her, and his breath against the crown of her head was gentle, soothing.
"I want her back," she sobbed quietly. "I want her to know me, to know about my life. I want her to be part of it. I want her to meet you, and the boys and the Captain." His arms squeezed around her. "She would have adored you, Castle."
"Yeah?" he asked, one of his hands rubbing circles on her arm.
"Yeah. She liked your books before I did. I found In Hail of Bullets on her nightstand one night about a month…after. I picked it up and I just fell in."
"I'm glad it gave you a little escape."
"It…you gave me a lot of escape, Castle," she sniffled. She felt him press a kiss into her hair and she smiled, too tired to really appreciate the warmth that spread through her body at his touch. "She would have liked your crazy stories and how you're really just a big kid, playing your way through the world."
"I'm sure I would have loved her," he murmured.
"I'd hope so." One of his hands was running up and down her leg. "You hug the way she did."
"Yeah," she leaned into him. "Like this—if you were sad, she would just envelope you, and there was nowhere that felt safer."
She felt him smiling into her hair. "I'm sorry I never met her. But, you know, I almost feel like I have."
"I have you," he said simply.
Kate smiled and wiped at her cheeks. "She was so much more than me."
"I'm sure she was amazing. But you, Kate, you're extraordinary."
She gave a watery chuckle. "She would have loved your way with words, too." He kissed her head again. "I know I do."
"Tell anyone I said that and I'll make Alexis an only child," she said as an after thought.
He laughed, a full, light sound. "Duly noted." They were quiet for a few minutes. "Do you want your breakfast?"
Kate shook her head. "Not right now. I'm not…I'm not very hungry."
"Okay, but go another hour, and I'm forcing you to eat. We can order in, if you want, too. Anything."
"No thanks necessary," he told her. "There's nowhere I'd rather be today."
She couldn't find the right words to tell him how much that meant. And so they sat together for a long while, him wrapped around her, dropping kisses on her head every so often whenever she began to cry.
"You said something about pictures?" he broke the silence about half and hour later.
"Oh, yeah. I have more boxes that we didn't go through from the case. I thought maybe…maybe you'd like to look at them with me? We don't have to…"
"I would love that," he said.
They disengaged and he followed her over to a bookshelf, where a few unmarked boxes made up the bottom shelf. Together, they brought two back over and set them on the coffee table. Kate pulled him back down to the couch and tugged one of the boxes next to her. She reached in and found a set of pictures as they settled in. She leaned back and found one of his arms behind her on the back of the couch.
She allowed herself to nestle into the crook of his shoulder as she slipped the pictures from their envelope. He leaned over so that they could look at them together, his arm dropping to sit across her shoulders.
"You must be about, what, three?" he asked with a smile.
In the picture, a young Johanna Beckett was tossing Kate in the air. She was giggling with glee and Johanna's eyes shone as she laughed with her daughter.
"Yeah. We'd just moved into our apartment," Kate replied, moving to the next picture, which showed the little family standing in the large foyer of a very nice apartment.
"Nice place," Castle whistled.
"Rent control is amazing," Kate laughed. "We lived there until I was in my sophomore year of college." She felt Castle's arm tighten as she moved to the next photo.
"I like the pink," he said, humor in his voice.
Katie was sitting on her bed, surrounded by pink walls, pillows, stuffed animals and blankets, while Johanna held a doll up, making it talk.
"I was pretty fond of it. Though, when I got to be about 15, I didn't like it so much."
"From what you've told me, you'd have done better with dark purple walls and posters of the Rolling Stones."
Kate snorted. "Yeah. Man, my parents hated that phase."
"When did you grow out of it, so to speak? I know you've still got the bike, and the guitar."
"College," Kate shrugged. "I ditched the cigarettes and didn't get any more tattoos, but yeah, I kept the bike. And once Mom...I didn't really feel like rebelling anymore."
"Hard to rebel when there's nothing left to rebel against," she whispered. "Dad just fell apart, and suddenly I was the only one there to help him out."
"When did you join the force?"
"Right out of college. My Dad hated it."
"It's hard to think about your little girl out there, facing down guns and criminals. Did you end up telling him about the bomb?"
Kate laughed. "Hell no. Can you imagine? 'Oh, hey Dad. Yeah, I nearly got blown up today, but don't worry, Castle pulled the wires out of the bomb a second before it blew up.' That would have gone over wonderfully."
Castle laughed with her. "Yeah, you're probably right."
"Did you tell Alexis?"
"I told her some. That's a hero story I think I can save for the Precinct. Maybe I'll tell her ten years from now. She doesn't need that on her conscience."
Kate smiled. "You're a good Dad, Castle."
"Thanks. She's easy."
"You're lucky there. I was anything but," Kate sighed. "Gave my parents real hell for a few years."
"I'm sure they didn't love you any less for it."
Kate looked up at him. "How do you do that?"
"Say stuff like that? It's like you know everything I need to hear."
She felt him place a kiss on the top of her head again. "Two things," he said quietly. "One, I have a teenage daughter and a live-in mother; I've had practice at finding the right things to say. Two," he pulled away a bit to look at her. "I've known you for nearly three years."
"Doesn't mean Ryan or Esposito would have the same advice," she admitted. "And they've got nearly three years on you."
"I care about you," he said. "I like seeing you happy."
Kate felt her breath catch. She knew that he cared. Hell, he'd gotten jealous when someone wanted to talk to her about her work, let alone all the men that flirted with her on the job. She was his muse, even though she wasn't fond of the term.
After all, here he was, looking at pictures with her and holding her as she cried; and they weren't even together.
"Thank you, Castle," she said, leaning up to kiss his cheek before she let her head fall back to his shoulder.
She smiled and yawned, feeling heavy.
"You're tired," he observed. "Did you get any sleep last night?"
She shook her head. "I woke up at two."
"And didn't fall back to sleep?"
"No. I just couldn't."
"Josh didn't help?" He sounded less than pleased.
Kate blew out a breath. "Josh doesn't know."
She felt him tense around her. "Kate…"
"I know, Castle. I know, okay?" She sounded defeated, even to herself. "He wouldn't understand."
They were silent for a long moment. "I want you to be happy," he whispered.
"And you're not."
"I know your tells," he continued. "And you're not happy with him."
Kate felt his chest rising and falling erratically. He was right. Of course he was right. He was Richard Freaking Castle, and he knew almost everything about her. She wasn't happy with Josh. She hadn't been for a while. They'd found a balance after the bomb, but it had quickly fallen apart. And now she saw him for maybe one night a week.
"You're right," she whispered. "I just…I wanted to believe that we could be happy, you know? That I hadn't picked the wrong guy, again, just like every other time. That maybe if I tried hard enough to convince myself that he was what I needed…but I failed. It failed. We failed."
"You didn't fail," he said firmly. "Sometimes things just don't work out. It's not your fault, Kate."
"This," she laughed suddenly. "This is when I miss my Mom." She took a breath. "When I just want to go to her and lay on her bed and ask her about boys. I want her to tell me what to do. I want her to smack some sense into me. I just…I want her to hug me and tell me everything will be alright."
She could feel him smiling into her hair. "I can understand that."
"Everything's so messed up," she whispered.
"Things will untangle."
"I don't want to hurt him."
"You might," he replied honestly. "But not doing it now will only make it worse later."
"When did you grow up, Castle?"
He laughed. "You know, I met this woman a few years back. She has a very serious job, and she's completely committed to finding justice in the world." Kate blushed. "And she lets me follow her around, and bug her and poke at her. She made me grow up."
"She likes that you're still a kid too," Kate admitted.
"Oh, I know. I still like to pull her pigtails," he grinned. "But somewhere along the way, she made me a better person. I'm very grateful."
"I'm sure the sentiment is mutual."
"That's good," he murmured as she yawned again. "Come here."
He slipped his arm from around her shoulders and grabbed a pillow, laying it in his lap. Then he leaned over her and shifted the box back to the coffee table. Gentle hands tugged her down so that she was lying on the pillow, her legs stretched across the rest of the couch. His fingers found their way into her hair as she looked up at him.
"Thank you for being here, Castle."
"Always," he said simply.
She smiled. Everything hurt, but he was still here. He was soothing her and talking with her and listening to her problems. She was so tired. "I'm sorry."
"For…for messing everything up."
"It's not fair to you."
He smiled. "Things will untangle," he repeated, running a finger along her cheek.
"I care about you too, Castle."
"It might take…I can't promise for tomorrow…or, or next week…"
"I'll wait," he smiled.
"You will?" Her stomach fluttered.
"Of course," he said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
He smiled. "Because you're tall."