Title: Finding Her 'Perfect'
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.
Summary: Kate questions her relationship with Josh. Castle answers her questions about his marriages. And somewhere in between, Kate realizes that sometimes you just have to look at what's in front of you.
Author's Note: This is set between The Dead Pool And To Love and Die in LA. Assume that Castle and Beckett have been spending more time outside of the Precinct than we've been shown (I always assume so, since we don't see every case they do).
Input is greatly appreciated.
Thanks for reading.
You're STILL working on the case? Kate, it's 1am. I'm finally off shift. Call it a night.
Kate stared down at her phone and sighed, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. They were, in fact, done with the case. She and Castle had cracked it early in the afternoon and they'd finished getting the confession at 10pm. Then there had been the celebratory pizza in the break room with the guys. After that, there was her mountain of paperwork, which she was just finishing.
She looked over and bit back a smile. Castle was still in his chair, his hands flying over his phone and his face set in what she'd come to call his 'abruptly focused' face. He glanced up at her, as if feeling her gaze.
"Ha, sorry. It's not fair of me to play games."
Kate felt the smile break free. "I'm the cop; paperwork's part of the package. High score?"
He shook his head dejectedly. "You've still got me beat."
She grinned. Her phone pinged.
She felt the smile drop. She had paperwork. It wasn't her fault that she was at work this late. In fact, he was frequently at work later than this. Better yet, there were many nights when he didn't show up at all. Extra shifts, covering friends, extreme cases, emergency surgeries—Josh's excuses were always so legitimate. Hers, apparently, were not.
"Everything okay?" Castle asked.
Kate shook her head, shoved her phone to the top of her desk and flipped it over. She shrugged her shoulders and bent back over the paperwork to finish off the last file, feeling Castle watching her.
When she'd signed the last line and shoved all of the forms into their manila folder, she rubbed her hands over her face. "Can I ask you something?"
"Anything," he replied instantly.
She was tempted to laugh. Of course he'd been waiting for her to talk. He always knew when she needed to talk about something, share something, tell him something—he had a sixth sense for her. And, while it had initially been something she loathed, it was now something that she was mildly aware she couldn't do without.
"How did you know that your ex-wives weren't the one?" She finally raised her eyes to meet his.
He considered her. "The truth?"
"No, Castle, lie to me, please," she rolled her eyes.
He chuckled. "Touché, Detective." He paused for a second. "I met Meredith when I was 23. I was young. I had money and fame and everyone wanted a piece of me. Meredith fit in. She was lively and funny and more fun than I'd ever had. She was everything that Kyra rarely showed. She was, well, she was Meredith. And then she got pregnant."
Kate watched as he bent his head back and stared at the ceiling.
"And, even though I was scared as hell, I was actually really excited. I certainly had the means to support us, and I'd always liked kids. So, in the throes of very youthful optimism, I proposed. She accepted. Nine months later, we had a daughter. Four months after that, Meredith started partying again. She'd be out at all hours and would sleep even later in the daylight, when she wasn't busy trying to be on television.
"Alexis barely had a mom. But we were a family, so I thought, you know, I'd just stick it out. I had my writing and my baby, and Meredith was still affectionate…I could deal without perfect, right?"
He fell silent for a moment. "What happened?" Kate asked gently.
"I had a publicity meeting in Boston. I left early one morning and got back at maybe 2am. Meredith had seen me off, all smiles, with Alexis on her hip, proclaiming that it was a 'girls' day.' When I got back," he stared off at the back wall. "Alexis was crying up stairs and Meredith was on the couch with her casting director."
"I ignored them, slammed the door and sprinted upstairs. Alexis was in her crib crying and screaming. She was wet and hungry and once I picked her up, she wouldn't let go. To this day I wonder what would have happened if I'd left them alone for longer. She probably would have been crying all night. Meredith didn't have the monitor with her."
He looked back over at Kate and gave her a sad smile. "So, that, in a nutshell, is why I knew Meredith wasn't the one."
"But you still…ah…" Kate trailed off.
Rick laughed. "I hate to say it, but even as a terrible mother, she's still the mother of my child, and on some level, she's had power over me, in a number of ways, for a long time. Until recently she was something of a Siren song for me—the life I left behind, you know?"
Kate nodded. She'd figured that his marriage to the 'Deep Fried Twinkie,' had ended for some substantial reason, but this…well…this took the cake. "I'm sorry, Castle."
He shrugged. "It was a long time ago. And, for what it's worth, I absolutely shudder to think of what my life would have been like if I'd stayed with her."
Kate almost didn't want to ask about Gina.
"Gina," he said, giving her the patented, "You were 'not asking' very loudly" look, "was everything Meredith wasn't. She was serious and brainy, to an almost overbearing level. She was savvy and sophisticated and very down to earth, or at least I thought so at the time."
"You don't think so now?" Kate interrupted, biting her lip apologetically at her outburst.
He laughed. "I've met a few people in the past couple years that have shown me the very definition of 'down to earth,' and Gina? She's in the clouds."
Their eyes locked and Kate blushed and looked down at her desk. Being a Detective's shadow would definitely teach you the meaning of 'down to earth.' And for all the times that both of them had almost gotten shot throughout their bizarre partnership, Kate surmised that Castle probably knew the meaning of the phrase by heart.
"But Gina was too serious. She was all business. Alexis became a battle on both ends. She wanted to be in her life, but she didn't want her in the way. She wanted to be fun, but it had to be on her schedule. And once she moved in, we were all on her schedule." He gave a dry laugh. "It threw the very calm life Alexis had enjoyed into a maelstrom of arguments. I got more childish and Gina got more aggressive. We yelled and fought a lot. And I didn't want to be forever with someone who made me want to tear my hair out, and who didn't want just me. Gina wanted me and Richard Castle, the Novelist."
"What changed the second time?"
"We'd been apart for long enough to grow up, I think," he replied. "I'm much more…collected now, and she's looser. In the end though, it ended just like the first time."
"That fight at La Cirque?"
He shook his head. "We weren't in love. We wanted to be. We tried to be. But we weren't."
He looked down at his hands and they were silent for a few minutes before he spoke again; "I married Meredith because I wanted a family. I married Gina because I wanted a second chance. I didn't marry either of them because I was head over heels in love with them. And that, Detective," he turned to look at her, "is why neither of them was my one."
Kate didn't know what to say. He'd just bared his soul to her, laying out all of his dirty laundry. She'd expected him to be honest, but the magnitude of everything he'd just told her…it had left her head reeling.
Her phone pinged.
Should I just give up and go back to my place? Are you EVER coming home?
Kate stared at the message.
"Wondering where you are?" Castle asked quietly.
Kate bit her lip and nodded. "He's mad that I'm still here."
"You had paperwork."
She looked over at him. "Somehow, paperwork is never on the same level as emergency heart surgery."
He frowned. "That's not very fair."
Kate sighed. "Nope. Not very fair, just very frustrating. He wasn't on shift tonight, and he'd planned out a whole evening. Then we got the case and…well, here we are."
"I can go if you want to get home to him. I'm sure anything else can wait 'till morning," Castle offered.
"No, Castle, this isn't your fault. Thank you for staying, by the way. It's nice to have company."
"Even if all I do is play Angry Birds and annoy you?"
"I never said that," Kate smirked as he brought a hand to his chest in mock offense. "But really, thanks."
"I should really be thanking you," he waved her off. "Alexis is at a sleepover and mother is…entertaining this evening. I'm safer here."
She laughed. "Well, far be it for me to leave you to fend for yourself against your mother and her cohorts."
She shuffled papers on her desk, acutely aware that she should be getting up and going home to her Dr. Motorcycle Boy-Man-Josh.
"Can I ask you something?" Castle asked a few minutes later.
"Sure," she replied, turning to meet his gaze.
"Is he your one?"
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "No." She opened them and they stared at each other. "No, he's not," she continued. "We never see each other, even though we promised we'd try harder. And whenever he has time off, he just expects that I will too. When I get a call and he's there, he's angry and annoyed. And, I mean, I like him, and he's fun and close to perfect…but he's not my perfect."
She felt herself take a deep breath as that realization crashed over her. She'd always known that Josh was something she'd chosen for a good time. But, as time had passed, she'd started thinking that maybe there could be more there. But…but there just wasn't. He wasn't the one. He wasn't the one.
"I…" she started. "I need to…"
He gave her a soft smile and then his hand was on top of hers when she stood, her eyes looking around to try to find everything she needed.
"I'm sorry," he said gently.
She stopped moving and looked down at him. "Thanks, Castle, but I'm not." She smiled. "I'm too old to not be looking for my perfect, you know?"
He nodded. "I do."
"So, I'm, um, gonna go…have an extremely awkward conversation," she sighed and ran the hand that he wasn't holding through her hair. "This seemed so good until I really thought it through."
He gave a dry laugh. "The, 'I'm free!' realization is great, until you have to confront the fact that you're about to break someone's heart."
She met his eyes. "You think I'll break his heart?"
He stood and handed her phone to her. "Kate," he used her first name. "Losing you would break any man's heart."
She felt a blush creeping up her cheeks and gave him a soft smile. "You and your words, Castle."
"It's the truth," he shrugged. "But doing it now gives him a running start on trying to get over you, which will be a long process. So, really, you're doing him a favor."
She laughed. Leave it to Castle to make the idea of ending things with her boyfriend of nearly nine months into something sarcastically humorous.
"Always," he grinned as he held out her jacket to help her put it on. "If you need anything later, lemme know. I've got a great stash of bourbon, and I know how much you like that."
"Been cataloging my orders at the Old Haunt again?" she asked as they made their way into the elevator.
"Observing you is my job," he told her with a grin.
"You must have the best job in the world then," she said, making her voice slightly higher.
"You have no idea," he murmured.
She looked away and tried to get the smile that had bloomed at his words to leave her face. The elevator opened again on the first floor and they made their way out onto the curb.
"I should go," she said, shifting her weight anxiously.
"Okay," he replied. "But really, let me know if you need anything. Anytime, Kate."
"Thank you, Castle," she smiled.
"Just so you know," he continued, his eyes capturing hers in the way that only he could. "You will find your 'perfect.' I have no doubts."
She nodded and smiled. "I'm starting to think you may be right."
They stared at each other. They were having a moment.
Her cell pinged.
"I have to go," she said quietly.
"Of course. See you tomorrow?"
Kate nodded. "See you tomorrow."
He turned and walked away, his hands swinging freely by his sides. Kate flipped out the keyboard on her phone.
On my way.