Post-finale. I am fairly certain this is not what's going to happen next season, but I wrote it anyway. Title is a song of the same name by Trading Yesterday.
He feels nothing.
What's he supposed to feel? Maybe there's rage somewhere, maybe there's sadness and grief, maybe the questions of what if and if only are flirting with agony somewhere in the center of his chest. He feels as though he's caught in the limbo between gloriously drunk and about to vomit out his insides. He feels the weight of her head in his hands, hears her gasping softly for breath.
She closes her eyes, and he has to close his, too. It isn't this moment that he relives. Something else is written in the fissures of his brain: red hot ink, slanted cursive that comes alive and shows him her body pressed between his and the car, shaking as she sobs. He still feels the softness of her hand caressing his face, the shock of Montgomery dying nearby. Their breathing finds a rhythm, and they lose him together.
And if you're very lucky, you find someone willing to stand with you.
Esposito hauls him away from Kate, sets him in a chair. They get her into an ambulance. Lanie's sobbing. His mother and Alexis are hovering over him. Both of them are crying. He looks down at his hands. Lightning strikes internally, and then he's on his feet. Alexis tugs on his arm. He ignores her. He searches the crowd.
Jim Beckett is crying and suddenly Rick is crying too and then their hands are on each other's shoulders and then they're hugging and God, it's happening. It's actually happening. He meant to offer comfort but there's none to give. He collapses against the older man, and all he can think is Kate I love you I love you I loved you.
He loses track of time. People too, and space, and anything, really, that isn't her. He vaguely remembers getting in a car, riding the elevator up to the loft. Alexis urges him into bed, turns off the lights after she kisses him and tells him she's sorry, she loves him, she's so sorry.
He stares at the ceiling. For a while he still feels nothing, and then all of a sudden it hits again. He forgets how to breathe. He doesn't try to stop the tears. He whispers everything he should've said into a pillow until exhaustion takes over and he falls asleep.
He fucking hates this cemetery. Jim Beckett asks him to say something. When he gets to the podium, his throat tightens. He picks a spot on the grass and remembers her laugh.
"Roy was right," he murmurs. Lanie's sobbing again, folded into Esposito's side. Tears are streaming down Alexis's face. "I was lucky. She stood with me. I loved her. We all did."
That's it. He doesn't have much use for words anymore. Heat Rising will come out, but there will be no active publicity on his part. He's done. He'll never write again.
Twenty-seven hours and eighteen minutes after they put her in the ground and give her father a flag, Jim Beckett shows up at his door. The press is camped outside of the loft. He tells Rick he's going away for a while, going to stay with his college roommate in Tucson because he can't be in the city anymore. Everything reminds him of Katie. He presses Johanna's ring into Rick's hand, and the last vestiges of whatever's holding Rick together shatter. He cries in the middle of his loft, lets out everything he held in at the funeral. Jim hugs him tightly, murmurs something about taking it one day at a time. Rick doesn't want to take it at all.
After Jim leaves, Alexis and his mother beg him to go to the Hamptons to get away from the press. He agrees. Everything reminds him of Kate, too. They sneak out in the middle of the night. He drives in the dark. Alexis falls asleep in the back seat, clutching her cell phone. His mother stares quietly out the window. He watches the road and finds a way to make every song on the radio define his relationship with Kate. When they pull into the driveway, it's still dark. He shakes Alexis awake.
"We here?" she murmurs.
"Yeah. Come on."
Once they're in the house, his mother smiles at him sadly and heads upstairs. Alexis grabs his hand. "Daddy?"
"It's okay," he whispers, pulling her close. "I'm okay."
He tucks her in the way he used to when she was little, and then he goes to the east wing of the house, to the library where he wrote the majority of Naked Heat last summer. He pours some scotch, downs it in one gulp. He rests his hands on the mantel above the fireplace and bows his head. He swallows around the thickness in his throat, but it doesn't matter. He can feel the ring against his chest, hanging on the chain Kate used to wear.
He falls into a pattern, and the days inch by. Weeks. Months. It's been eighty-seven days since he held her, gasping, in the grass at the cemetery. It's nine o'clock at night, and he's in his library. He's reading Heat Wave for the millionth time, waiting to get sick of it but sick of waiting instead. There's a knock on the door. He looks up from the book.
The door swings open, and Alexis pops her head in. "Dad. Someone is here to see you."
Rick gets to his feet. Alexis steps aside, and a tall, dark-haired man in a suit enters. He glances at his watch, then around the room. His eyes linger on the sliding glass door in the far end of the room that leads to a wooden deck and then the beach. Alexis gives the man a once over before she closes the door.
"Do I know you?" Rick asks.
"Mr. Castle," the man says, turning his eyes to Rick. He flashes a badge. "My name is Brett Pierce. I'm with the FBI. I need your help."
"It's a matter that pertains to Detective Beckett and her mother's case."
Rick freezes. His throat tightens. Brett Pierce watches him.
"What about her?"
"We can't talk about this here. Will you please come with me?"
He goes, of course. The whole way there, Rick's imagination is running wild. Was Kate working with the FBI? Are they interested in who killed her mother? Did they find out about Roy? What the hell is going on?
They drive for an hour or so. When Pierce stops the car in front of a one story house, Rick has more questions than ever. He looks at Pierce.
"Come on," the agent says.
Rick follows him up to the front door. Pierce knocks four times. "Yeah?" a male voice says from the other side of the door.
"Celsius," Pierce says.
Rick stares at him. The door swings open. Pierce ushers him over the threshold. "Call me when he's done, Benson."
"Done with what?" Rick says, but Pierce has already shut the door. Rick turns to see another man in a suit standing next to him. He's shorter than Pierce, and blond.
"I'm Benson," the man says. He sticks out his hand.
Rick doesn't shake it. "What the hell is going on?"
Benson nods over Rick's shoulder. "She can probably explain that better than I can."
Rick turns around. And there she is.
Reality screeches to a halt. Rick stares at her, certain that he's hallucinating. He's dreaming. He's going to wake up and be in his arm chair in the library with a glass of scotch in one hand and Heat Wave in the other. He's going to reach up to feel her ring around his neck and then he's going to realize for the thousandth time that she's dead.
But she's not dead. She's standing on the other side of the room at the end of a hallway, staring at him the same way he's staring at her. She's in jeans and a t-shirt, her hair is falling in waves around her face. Her eyes are glistening with unshed tears. She's alive.
"Kate?" he breathes.
She bites her lip. She tilts her head at him as though to ask what he's still doing so far away, and suddenly he's wondering the same thing. He lurches toward her unsteadily, and she meets him halfway. They collide somewhere in the middle of the living room, their arms wrapping around each other. Benson mutters something about being in the other room if they need him, but Rick doesn't care. He's too busy listening to the sound of Kate breathing. Breathing.
Something that sounds suspiciously like a sob falls from his lips. She runs her hand over the back of his head, still in his arms. "Rick," she whispers in his ear.
And that's it, he's gone, gone like he was when he'd found her father at the cemetery. He starts sobbing, the tears falling wildly down his cheeks. "Shh," she murmurs in his ear, but he can hear the quiver in her voice, can feel it in her chest, and he holds her closer.
"Kate," he says. It's all he can say.
"Shh," she says again. "Shh."
Eventually, he catches his breath, but he won't let her go. She doesn't try to break free. He whispers the logistical questions that he couldn't bring himself to ask before now, and she whispers the answers. Corruption investigation, luring out the mastermind, protecting her by "killing" her, not telling anyone except her father the truth.
"I didn't know," he says.
She finally pulls away a little, but he won't let her go far. He keeps his hands on her waist. She smiles up at him, and he notices that there are drying trails of tears on her cheeks. "I know," she murmurs. "I'm sorry. I couldn't…I'm sorry. It was the only way."
There's no room for reservation anymore. He puts a hand on her face, runs his thumb along her cheek. "I tried to save you."
"I know that too."
He feels his chest tighten. He doesn't understand how she knows that he's about to lose it again, but she does. She covers his hand with hers. "Rick. I'm okay."
She's standing in front of him, alive and well, but he doesn't believe it. She must see it in his eyes, because she moves his hand over her heart.
"It's still beating," she whispers. "I'm okay."
"You're okay," he echoes.
"I'm okay. We're okay."
Rick turns and sees Benson in the doorway leading to the kitchen. "We're changing shifts soon."
Kate nods. "Okay. We'll move."
"Move?" Rick says, tightening his hold on her waist. He isn't ready to go yet.
She smiles at him. She takes one of his hands in hers and leads him into the hallway she was standing in front of when he first entered the house. He follows to the last door on the right. She swings it open.
The light from the hallway floods the windowless room and he sees a bed, a dresser, bare walls. A small suitcase is in the corner. A laptop that he guesses is hers is open and on, sitting on the ground next to the bed. She reaches past him to flip on the light switch, but he catches her hand. She looks up at him curiously. He slips his other arm around her waist, palms the small of her back and pulls her close. She's so small. He wanted to do this in her apartment the night she told him to get out. He's wanted to do it every day since she died, every day since he met her.
She stares at him. He stares back. And then he kisses her. He doesn't have much use for words anymore. What could he say? I love you? I missed you? I'm so glad you're okay? Can't he say that, and so much more, with a kiss?
She goes rigid against him for a second and then relaxes. She holds his face in her hands as she kisses him back, her tongue slipping into his mouth. He flashes back to the way they'd kissed all those months ago to distract the guard, but this moment isn't that moment. This moment isn't like anything he's ever experienced, and he hopes she knows that. This is so uniquely them, so far beyond anything he could ever write or imagine or even wish for. She's not the only one who's been resurrected.
It's not about sex. When she reaches around him to shut the door, he doesn't feel a bit of triumphant glee. When she lets him undress her it's not how fast he can get her clothes off. He doesn't make jokes. She doesn't hesitate to maintain eye contact. The glow of her laptop screen is all that lights the room and he watches her in the semi-darkness, captivated. He's always pictured something explosive for them, something befitting the name Nikki Heat. When he moves above her on the bed, it's its own kind of heat, a new kind that makes him shiver. Everything changes. They both know it. Everything changed when she died, and now it's changing again because this is it, he's never letting her go.
Afterward, he wraps his arms around her and holds her close. This time, he whispers everything he should've said to her instead of to a pillow. She doesn't whisper it back. Instead she cuddles closer, kisses him once on the hollow of his throat.
"Are you staying?" she whispers.
He wants to look at her, but she's hiding her face in the crook of his neck. He brushes his hand over her back. "Can I?"
She shifts against him. "You'd have to call Alexis. So she wouldn't worry. But you can't tell her. You can't tell anyone."
"Maybe that's for the best. Then I don't have to share you."
She doesn't answer. Silence hangs in the air. He wasn't prepared to see her alive, so he wasn't prepared to do this. He didn't know he'd have to fight for her. What are they doing? What have they done? Affirmed life? Shared relief? He can't go back to the way it was. He won't. She was dead and he'd spent millions of seconds agonizing over missed opportunities and he can't, he won't—
She moves, pushing off of his chest. He freezes. She clutches the sheet to her chest and bends over him for a second, then rises again with his pants in her hand. He holds his breath, waiting for her to softly tell him that maybe it's best that he left.
Instead, she pulls his phone from his front pocket. She looks at it for a while, then looks at him. Her hair is beautifully tousled, and he wants to touch it. He wants to touch her.
"Why don't you call her?" she whispers, holding out his phone.
He rises to meet her, puts a hand on either side of her face and kisses her fiercely. When he pulls away, they're both a little breathless. She laughs at him quietly. He doesn't care.
"What was that for?" she whispers.
He takes his phone out of her hand. "For asking me to stay."
He wakes to an empty bed.
For the longest, most terrible second of his life, he thinks he dreamed it all. Her skin and her lips and her warmth. He looks around the room, the bare walls and the dresser and her suitcase, and logic prods him. She's alive. That's why he's in this room, that's why he's in this house, because she's here.
But she's not here, and he needs her to be, he needs to find her. He stumbles out of bed, trips over his boxers, and pulls them on hastily. He opens the door and hurries down the hall, squinting at the daylight that hadn't been in her small bedroom. He bursts into the living room but no one's there. He continues into the kitchen, panting a little, and then he stops.
Kate turns from her position at the table, her feet tucked up underneath her. She's wearing a baggy t-shirt and a pair of yoga pants, and there's a bowl in front of her, sitting next to a box of cereal. She's stopped with the spoon halfway to her mouth. A man sits at the head of the table with a mug in front of him. It's not Benson or Pierce, but he's in a suit. Rick looks back at Kate in time to see her taking in his outfit, or lack thereof, with lifted eyebrows. She meets his eyes, and he shifts his weight awkwardly from one foot to the other. He looks at the floor.
"Sorry," he mutters. He turns and leaves before he says something stupid. She catches his hand just outside her bedroom. He doesn't turn so she moves around him, stands in front of him and stares until he finally looks at her.
She lifts her eyebrows again, this time in a silent question.
"I thought you were gone," he answers.
"Where would I go?"
He shrugs. "Away."
The answering look on her face knocks the breath out of him. The same look he'd seen in the darkness of the hangar, the look that she'd worn after she pleaded with Montgomery not to die for her but he did anyway. She bites her lip and looks away, and this time he's the one who can sense that she's about to lose it. He isn't sure what's triggered her reaction, but he's fairly certain that she hasn't let herself deal with anything yet. She's been cooped up in this house, alone and cut off from everything she knows, and she hasn't dealt with anything yet.
He reaches for her, but she shakes her head. "What?" he whispers.
"This isn't me."
"It is now."
She shakes her head again impatiently. "I haven't left this house since May. I haven't seen anyone. I'm stuck here, Castle."
"I know," he tries, but she won't have it. She turns away from him, reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose. Her shoulders are slumped. He doesn't know what to do.
"I thought this would be easier," she says, her back still turned. "I didn't think I'd have such a strong reaction."
"To faking your death?"
"To you," she says, turning around to look him in the eye.
They stare at each other. For the first time, he wonders if they made a mistake last night. Not because he regrets it, or even because he thinks she does, but because they're both so beyond traumatized that they're not themselves.
"Okay," he says. He holds his hands up and steps toward her slowly. She eyes him warily. "Okay," he says again. She's biting her lip, but she isn't moving away. "I know this is new. I'm in uncharted territory too."
"You charted it just fine."
A beat passes. The smallest smile tugs on her lips and then warmth spreads through him. He grins. Her smile widens.
"There you are," he whispers. "I hadn't seen you smile in a while. I almost forgot how pretty you are."
"Rick," she breathes, and then he's moving toward her again, pulling her flush to his chest. He presses his forehead against hers and closes his eyes. "Trauma does this," she whispers. "Grief. It changes things."
"You don't want them to change?"
"I don't…" she exhales slowly. "I wasn't going to sleep with you. I wasn't going to do this, I wasn't going to…"
"Shh," he says.
"I begged them," she says, leaning away to look him in the eye. "I begged them to bring you here."
"I don't know," she says, her voice rising. "I don't know. I just couldn't be a ghost anymore."
"Your dad knows you're alive."
"That wasn't enough."
Their eyes hold. He waits for her to finish, but he knows she won't. She can't.
"It's enough now that I know, too," he says for her.
She moves toward him, brushes her cheek against his. Her breathing is unsteady. "It's enough now."
His resistance is gone. He finds her lips and kisses her, right in the middle of the hallway. She kisses him back, darts her tongue into his mouth, and he decides for the millionth time that he's never letting her go, not ever.
"Okay, okay," she says, pushing against his chest.
He grins. "No, we should keep—" He kisses her again.
She wraps her arms around his neck and then comes back to herself and pushes him away again.
"Lost time," he murmurs, going in again, but she laughs and holds him away.
"No," she says. "We can't." She trails her hands down his arms and laces her fingers with his. "Pierce called. He's picking you up in an hour."
The happiness drains out of him so fast he feels dizzy. "What? No. I'm not going."
"Rick," she says, squeezing his hand. "You can't stay here."
"Yes I can."
"No, you can't."
"You're here," he tells her firmly. "I'm staying here."
"You're not putting your life on hold."
"I had to. I didn't have a choice."
"Well, I do. I'm staying here."
She clenches her jaw, her eyes flashing. He lets himself soak it in for a moment. He never thought he'd get to see it again.
"Castle. Listen to me. You cannot stay here. People will miss you."
"People miss you."
She lets go of his hands. Her words hang in the air. He doesn't miss the pain chasing across her face. He doesn't know how she does it. Any of it. Her mother and Royce and Montgomery and faking her death, shutting the world out, losing everything—and for what? For closure? For a name, the identity of some mysterious mastermind?
"No," he says. "You're not dead." He moves toward her. She steps away, but he keeps going, boxes her in against a wall and puts a hand on either side of her so she can't escape. It's what he should've done that night in her apartment when she told him to get out. He's done wasting time.
He lowers his mouth to her neck, kisses and licks his way up to her ear. He catches a glimpse of her curling her fingers into fists and that spurs him on, makes him wrap an arm around her waist and press his body into hers.
"You think you'd feel that if you were dead?" he hisses against her ear as he slips his hand up her shirt. He caresses the skin of her back. She arches into him. "You were never dead to me, Kate. Not for one second."
"Rick," she pleads.
"I just got you back," he says, cursing the waver in his voice. "Don't take you away from me."
"It's safer for you."
"I don't care."
"It's safer for me."
He buries his head in her shoulder. "Not fair."
"I never said I'd fight fair. Not when I'm fighting for you."
Neither of them says anything for a while. He breathes into her shoulder, unwilling to move. She threads her fingers through his hair the way she did the night before.
"Nobody can know about me," she whispers. "And if you stay here, or you keep visiting, someone will notice."
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do. The next Nikki Heat comes out in a month. The movie a month after that. Your muse is dead. People will be watching you. They already are. You should visit your fan sites."
There's a joke somewhere in there, but he ignores it. She pushes him gently away from her and looks him in the eye.
"You want to know my screen name?"
When he doesn't answer, she bites her lip. "Don't look at me like that."
"Don't make me go."
She stares at him for a long moment. He lets her. Finally, she leans forward and kisses him. When she pulls away, she whispers against his lips. "Get dressed."
He pulls her toward the bedroom. "Help me."
He shuts the door behind her. She shakes her head. "We don't have time."
He ignores her, kisses her. She doesn't fight him. He doesn't know when he'll see her again, and he won't leave until he's burned every inch of her into his brain. She's just as painstaking in her movements as he is. Suddenly they're desperate. Last night was slow, last night was thank God and this morning is please don't go and he knows that if he asks her to reconsider, she'll ask him to stay.
But he won't. He won't do that to her, won't do that to them. But he does make sure she understands that even if he's desperate, even if he can't get enough of her, he meant what he said when he thought she was dying in his arms.
When Pierce arrives, Rick is dressed and clinging to her hand. She surprises him by kissing him in front of Pierce, her hands on his face. He wraps his arms around her tightly. She's the one who pulls away. She looks at Pierce the same way she looks at a suspect who she wants to be perfectly clear with.
"Give him the number."
"Beckett," Pierce says.
"I didn't ask for your opinion," she counters. "Give it to him."
Rick watches them, but Kate leaves no room for argument. She wraps her arms around him, kisses his cheek.
And then she breaks away from him, beelines for the hallway and disappears out of sight, and he knows that she's crying and doesn't want to in front of the suits. In front of him.
He doesn't have a problem crying in front of Pierce.
The number turns out to be a phone number, a secure line that Kate uses to talk to her father once a week. Pierce is brutally clear that they're not supposed to talk more than twice a week, but Rick breaks the rules. Sometimes he wonders if he shouldn't for her sake, but the softness in her voice every time she answers ends that question.
He doesn't have to pretend in front of other people. She may not be dead, but she's not alive either. She's stuck somewhere in limbo, a ghost and a memory and a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone line. He takes what he can get, he's too in love with her not to, but his heart still hurts. It's just a different kind of ache.
Pierce lets him go back for Christmas. He can't go on the 25th, that day is for Alexis, so he goes the 23rd. He takes her cookies and a tiny tree and bright colored lights and a stocking with her name on it because he has nightmares about her being alone in her room with its bare walls and tiny suitcase.
Her hair is shorter. She cut it herself. He doesn't shave the morning after because it's a waste of time he could be spending with her. She tells him she likes him with a little facial hair. He doesn't get a minute of sleep the entire twenty-four hours he's there. They stay up all night talking and making love and breathing in this give and take rhythm they established he doesn't even know when.
Two weeks later, he's leaning over the stove, stirring a giant pan of soup. He's taken up cooking in her absence. He's not sure why. Maybe because he wants to be able to cook for her when she returns, as though somehow that will mean that they never have to leave his loft and she'll never be in danger again and he can keep her forever.
He hears a key in the door, and he turns.
"Alexis, it's fantastic. I know you doubted me, I know you said that lentil soup is—"
"Is what, Castle?" Kate says into the silence.
A shiny metal key is clasped in her fingers. The door shuts behind her. He drops the ladle, runs to her, and she laughs. He sweeps her into his arms, and she holds him back just as tightly.
"Are you alive now?" he breathes into her ear.
She threads her fingers through his hair the way she did the first night. "Yeah, Rick. I'm alive now."