Previously in Apples & Cherries…Kate and Castle finally came home. Rick was able to talk with Alexis alone about hair, healing, and helping. Martha and Kate had a nice little chat as well. Apparently, you guys liked that scene.
Warning: this is complete
"Personally, Beckett? I don't give a damn. What you did was professional suicide, ain't no other way to say it. No one pushed you into this."
This was not promising.
Kate stood in front of her captain, shoulders squared and snapped to attention. She fought to keep her eyes up and locked with Montgomery's. She'd walked into the precinct this morning, knowing it was going to be one of the hardest conversations she'd ever had. She'd have to fight for this. Fight for her job. Fight for her passion.
When she'd entered the captain's office not two minutes ago, he hadn't even looked up. That crease in his temple had pulsed and his upper lip stiffened, but other than that, he was blank. She'd expected him to start the conversation and when he hadn't, she found that she had no clue what to say. She had points that she'd gone over in her mind, things that he needed to hear, reasons he should give her a second chance, but nothing to open the actual conversation. So, remember that time I resigned?
He'd finally spoken first after forcing her to suffer his silence for far too long. It was a cool and calm voice with which he addressed her. Distant. Unforgiving. That was minutes ago and she still hadn't spoken.
"You walk back in here—back into my office—and are looking for what? A second chance? Slap on the wrist? I'm sorry, Beckett, but my hands are tied here. You voluntarily gave up the gun and badge. You resigned. Nothin' I can do."
"Sir, if I could just say—"
"What? That it was for Castle? That your behavior should be excused because it was for the man you love? Don't give me that look, Beckett. I know you love him. Doesn't change anything. There's no loophole for sacrificial acts of love."
Bleak. Her vision was tunneling. She hadn't expected this to be easy, by any means, but she'd thought she might have a chance. She thought maybe Montgomery would take into account the circumstances and the situation. But he was set firmly in position, not willing to bend. Not even for her.
Maybe if she pushed harder. Convince him. Show him.
Her voice reeked of desperation. "Sir, it was Alexis. I had to. I know you know that. It was for Alexis and for Rick. I'd do it again—"
He stood suddenly, interrupting her and jabbing a finger in her direction. "You better damn well never do it again! Next time take the time to convince me. Next time get your evidence together. Next time present your case with more than the absolute nothing you gave me to go on. How long do you think it would have taken to convince me, Beckett? You're a damn fool. You quit on this job and you quit on me. A minute. That's all the leeway you gave me to be on your side. One minute before you quit. Tell me why I should be on your side now."
"It was for him. For them. I had to."
He dropped into his chair again, head cradled in his hands. He spoke from underneath them.
"You didn't have to do it like that, Beckett. There were a hundred different ways to go about this. A hundred better ways."
"I didn't—I couldn't-I couldn't think, Sir. All I could think was to get to him. I couldn't separate. I wasn't rational. I was stupid, I know. But I couldn't think!"
He leaned back in his chair and it squeaked achingly on its hinges. Sighing like it could somehow relieve the situation, he stared at her. The brittle bones, the dark circles, the jut of her ribs against her shirt, he took it all in.
"This is one hell of a position you've put me in."
"I know, sir." The apology was in her voice, tacked onto her response like a lamprey.
He pulled open the large bottom drawer of his desk, the small wheels rumbling along the tracks like thunder. He withdrew her gun and badge from within, setting them down on the table between them. She stared at them, her missing appendages. Hungry. She wanted them so badly. She craved the safe weight of the Glock at her hip and the cool metal of the badge under her fingers.
"I'm going to hang on to these. You don't get them back." Her heart plummeted. "Yet."
A spark of hope.
"You did a real stupid thing, Beckett. I could keep you out of this precinct for good and no one would bat an eye at my decision. But I know you and I know why you did it. You're still one hell of a cop and I'd be depriving this city of one of it's greatest assets if I held you to your resignation. So I won't."
"Oh, Thank y—"
"I'm not finished. This isn't okay. What you did wasn't okay. You are, starting now, suspended without pay for two weeks. When that time is up, you will enter back into your position on probation. I'll decide how long that is, and believe me…it will be long enough. Esposito's been doing a damn good job heading up the team and I'm going to let him continue. You will damn well earn my trust back before I let you in with full responsibilities."
Whatever. Anything. She'd take anything.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"I'll make sure Esposito knows. See you in two weeks."
She gave him a nod, tried to put her gratitude in her eyes, and then stepped out of his office. Her entire body trembled like she'd just chugged an entire vat of coffee. Her hands were freezing; the blood had left them long ago, retreating to her vital organs. She took a few calming breaths, trying to wipe away the remnants of her fight-or-flight response.
"Yo, Beckett? You good? You're lookin' a little pale."
She snapped her head to the side. Ryan and Esposito were walking into the precinct, fresh from tracking down a lead. Her body pulsed with the need to join the hunt.
"I'm fine," she replied. "Not a lot of sun in Washington. You expect me to come back tan?"
Ryan answered, "No, but we expected you to come back a little happier to see us. What's the matter? Didn't you miss us?"
"Nah, bro. She was off canoodling Castle the whole time. You think she was thinking of us?"
"Dear god I hope not." Ryan scrunched his face in disgust.
"Hey. Cool it, boys, or I won't give you your presents."
"You got us presents?"
"No. Castle got you presents."
"Even better." Esposito bumped Ryan's fist.
"Yeah. Whaddaya think? Advanced copy of an upcoming game?"
"Season tickets to the Knicks?"
"Nah, I bet it's something even better. Like a robot butler."
Esposito gave his partner a judging look. "Seriously? Your bet is on a robot butler?"
Before the conversation could get even more out of hand, Kate reached under her recently unused desk for the bag that she'd stashed below. Taking out the hideous shirts, she threw each of them one.
"What is this?"
"I can't wear this."
"I don't know, Esposito," she teased with a smirk, "I think the blending of the purple and pink really brings out your eyes."
Ryan held his shirt up against his chest, checking the size, while Esposito flung his over one shoulder.
"Tell your boyfriend thanks. We won't be forgetting these gifts any time soon."
Kate smiled. "Stop acting tough. We all know you are just dying to get home and try it on."
"Oh yeah. You know it."
There was a bit of a pause between the three of them. The dynamic that had been missing of late took time to stretch out in the spaces between them, acclimating to its reactivation. Kate let herself bask in the wholeness of the feeling she had near Ryan and Esposito. She hadn't realized how much she had missed them and how much they really enhanced the crime solving experience. She'd missed their tenacity and eagerness, the raw, go-for-the-throat mentality of Esposito and the quick-witted enthusiasm of Ryan.
Her eyes fell back to Montgomery's office. Two more weeks and she'd have it back. Until then, she should probably leave. She didn't want to push her luck with the Captain or her welcome at the station.
"Alright, boys. I've got better things to do than watch the two of you model your new shirts." She grabbed her purse from under the desk and fished out her keys, letting the key ring dangle off her index finger before she swung it in a circle. "I'll be back in two weeks. Behave yourselves."
"Did you hear that, Esposito? Another two weeks of vacation time."
"Come on, bro. You know it's just honeymoon syndrome. She's off to schtupp Castle for two weeks."
Smiling slyly, Kate said, "Exactly. So don't bug me for two weeks, guys. I'll be too fucking busy and vice versa."
Both their jaws hit the floor. She allowed herself one last glance over her shoulder to watch as Ryan's eyes slowly grew in shock and understanding, Esposito's with approval and amusement. Making her way to the elevator, she rounded the corner with a secret smile hiding in her lips. She'd been teasing…But also not.
Her smile grew.
Castle leaned back against the uneven stones of the Glen Span Arch, and shifted in vain as they poked stubbornly into his ribs and spine, unwilling to compromise. He was early. This morning, he'd slept in and then dropped Alexis off at her therapy appointment, trying hard to figure out how to be supportive but not clingy. It proved difficult when all he wanted to do was swathe her in bubble wrap and sit with her in a meadow of flowers and soft grass. With rainbows. Unicorns.
Was that asking so much?
Kate had left his house last night so late that it was actually just incredibly early. She refused his offer of a ride and opted to take a cab home, citing his need to just stay in the loft with his family. After he'd come inside from his talk with Alexis on the balcony, he'd found Kate and his mother discussing questionable character motivations in And the World Turned.
From his mother's refusal to meet his eye and Kate's over-interest in the show, he gathered that that wasn't at all what they'd been talking about before. Must've heard his approach and switched subjects. He'd made a note to ask Kate about it later, but for the time being he had let them get away with the charade.
He had wanted Kate to stay at his place that night, just to round out the feeling of "we are all okay and together" that had been cultured so organically through the dinner and conversations in his loft. But as soon as he had mentioned it, he knew her answer would be a no. He saw that determined little crease settle in between her brows and her eyes turned up to him, supplicating him to not push it. She had big plans to visit the precinct and deal with the fallout of the last week in person, like a big girl.
So he hadn't pushed. He'd let her find her own way home so that she could take the time to mentally prepare herself for the morning to come. Before allowing her gorgeously independent side to separate them completely for the night, he'd asked her to meet with him after she was done. West Central Park at the north end of the Loch, under the Glen Span Arch. It wouldn't be nearly as crowded with tourists as the major bridges and he'd promised her food if she'd show.
After dropping Alexis off this morning, he'd found he didn't want to go home. Her grandmother would be picking her up from her appointment in only about an hour and he had to meet Kate soon anyway. He had chosen to walk to a little Greek restaurant on West 97th and Columbus and pick up enough food for an army before walking the relatively short distance to the Glen Span arch. His legs were tired by the time he'd finally made it there and the smell of delicious food was tempting him from the heavy bag at his side.
The sun was stifling as it followed its track to its peak in the sky. The rain from last night had not carried over into this day and there was no sign it had even happened other than the slightly more humid air and softer dirt. His back was cooking against the outer stones of the arch, so he pushed off to stand underneath it instead. Here, it was drastically cooler and he wiped the beading sweat on his brow with his shoulder, more than ready to accept the shade's offering.
Before the almost liquid-cool feeling of the dark stones against his back could even begin to soak through his shirt, his peripherals caught a sight that heated him right back up. He swiveled his head to take her in fully. She was walking towards him with that heart stopping gait of hers, wearing a light pink button down tucked neatly into grey trousers. His heart rate sped up as she threw him a smile like a song laced with sunlight. His feet were moving to meet her halfway without him even asking them to. Good feet.
He leaned in and brushed a kiss over the arch of her cheekbone, savoring the feverish dance of his heart. When she was near, it was lightning striking a cherry tree, all blossoms and sizzle. The flash of teeth, the spark of a stare, the heady, reigning scent that lingered everywhere. He could feel the settle of ozone from this encounter and found himself wishing that just this time the bolt would strike a little bit closer, maybe straight through him.
"Hey, yourself. What did you bring me? I'm starved." She moved a hand down to grab at the nondescript plastic bag dangling at his side and he pulled it back out of her reach.
"Greek food, but no eating and walking. Let's find a place to sit first."
She pursed her lips in disapproval, but laced her fingers through his free hand and led him under the arch. The deep green and barely moving water to the side of the path, sparkled in the light that managed to fall through the open ends of the tunnel. A small waterfall met them on the other side and he smiled to see the appreciation in her face. The water fell happily down the rocks, white with movement and joy.
"That rock looks good."
"Kate, that rock is wet."
"Hmm. Aren't we picky, today."
He led her down the path until he saw a much better, less damp option. Some large rocks sat at the base of a large gnarled tree, soft summer grass filling the spaces between everything hard. He took the few steps off the path to get to it before setting the heavy food down, looking back to make sure she approved and was following.
Her eyes were soft and spiced like cinnamon and caramel as they watched him. He liked that. He liked it even more when she walked over to meet him under the tree, watching her feet to make sure her heels didn't sink into the mud. She placed her hand on his cheek and kissed him as softly as he could bear, pulling back all too soon. She stroked the lobe of his ear affectionately before twisting around him to sit fluidly on the flat surface of a rock with more grace than he imagined a classically trained dancer could.
"Sorry I didn't bring a jacket or something for you to sit on."
"I'll be fine, Castle. Come sit and let's eat."
He picked out a patch of grass right next her, leaning his shoulder against her rock and his back against the trunk of the tree. Spreading his legs out into a vee, he pulled the bag in between and started to unload the contents. Olives, tomatoes, onions, feta, flatbread, lamb, tzatziki, dolma, and hummus. He watched as Kate's eyes grew even hungrier as the veritable feast appeared before her. Tossing a water bottle up to her, he cracked his own open and then popped a dolma in his mouth.
Just as he bit down on the giant mouthful of grape leaves and rice, his phone rang loudly from his pocket. He shifted to pull it out, checked the caller ID, and then answered.
"Wrrhff tssnt muh guh frrr Shhhnn"
"What on Earth was that supposed to be, Rick?" came the voice of Shannon the reporter from his phone. He chewed as quickly as he could and swallowed a bit prematurely, forcing the bolus down hastily.
"I said 'well if it isn't my good friend Shannon.' How did you not get that?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I don't speak Glutton."
"What do you need on this fine day, my dear Shannon. Anything for you. You really got me out of a pickle back there."
He looked up and met Kate's gaze, who was listening with great interest and chewing on a piece of lamb wrapped in flatbread. He flicked his phone on speaker so that she didn't have to strain to hear the conversation.
"That's actually exactly what I wanted to talk to you about. Don't think I didn't notice what happened that night at the symphony after our little interview. The place was absolutely swarming with cops. And then the next day, the whole city's got choppers in the air and every news station has a photo of Jerry Tyson flashing across the bottom of the screen. You promised me an exclusive and I'm here to collect."
"Ah. Yes. That. If I know you—and I think I do—you've already figured out most of it."
"Well, yes. But that doesn't change the fact that I need interviews with you to make the article legit. Now spill. This is a career-maker, I can tell."
"Tell you what, why don't I fly you down here tomorrow and you can have the interview of your dreams. Photos included."
"Will Detective Beckett be a part of the deal?"
He looked up at Kate and watched for her decision. She had her index finger hooked lightly on her lip, the nail brushing against her teeth. Her thinking face. She withdrew the finger and then nodded confidently at him.
"Yeah. She's in. No Alexis though. My daughter stays out of it, the article and the pictures."
"That's gonna make it tough."
"You can pull it off. Now should I buy you a ticket or what?"
"Are you kidding me? Yeah. Buy the ticket and start working on those famous descriptions of yours. My readers will like a bit of imagery." She hung up without a goodbye and Castle shook his head in amusement. He owed Shannon more than she knew. It was because of her article that they'd been able to 'find' Tyson so quickly. She deserved all the interviews he could give.
He leaned his head against the bole, letting a particularly huge knot cradle his neck. Moments later, he felt Kate's fingers absentmindedly sifting through his hair. Her fingertips drew patternless flourishes as the weaved along and that plus the sun was lulling him into the beginnings of a nap. He wasn't even hungry anymore, as long as her fingers kept swirling.
He drifted away…
She wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep, but she noticed it after she'd eaten her third dolma. He hadn't eaten anything and when she leaned forward to peer around at his face, it was relaxed and sweet with sleep. The sun was gilding the tips of his hair with a glowing gold, making it shine beneath her fingers. Standing slowly, she moved the bag of food as quietly as she could, clearing out the space between his legs. She placed a whisper of a kiss across his lips, bending at the knees to reach him before kneeling all the way and turning to lay her back against his sun-warmed chest.
If he was going to sleep, she wanted a nap too.
His arm came to wrap around her stomach, pulling her in closer. He nuzzled his face into the corner of her neck, breathing in and kissing her softly. She closed her eyes and sighed. One of his fingers was rubbing back and forth against the fabric of her shirt and she could tell he wasn't going to go back to sleep based solely on the rhythm of the strokes.
"So…I talked to the Captain."
"How'd it go?" His arms tensed around her and she could feel his heart rate speed up for her. He sounded almost as nervous as she had felt, walking into Montgomery's office this morning.
"Well…he's not holding me to my resignation."
"Oh that's great! Kate! I'm so happy! I knew he wouldn't punish you—he loves you way too much. You are so the teacher's pet. Don't deny it."
"Castle, he didn't just let me off the hook. I've been suspended without pay for two weeks and then on probation for an undisclosed amount of time. It's at his discretion."
"Yeah, but it doesn't matter. As long as I have a job, right?"
She turned uncomfortably around in his arms so that she could see his face. He looked…heartbroken.
"Rick, what's wrong?"
"You…you almost lost your job because of me, Kate."
"We've been over this, Castle. You knew I'd quit."
"Yeah, but I guess I never really thought it through. What it meant for you. What would you have done without the force, Kate? All because of me!"
"I would have figured something out. Could have become a licensed PI or something."
"Wouldn't have been enough for you. And it was because of me! And now? Now you have a suspension and probation on your record. It will be there forever. Any promotion you are ever up for, those will be pushing you back down. Because of me."
"Will you stop saying that? It wasn't because of you. I did it for you. And I'd do it again. A few marks on my record are nothing compared to what life would have been like without you. Or with you-sans-Alexis."
He didn't speak for a bit, staring out at the Loch as it fell stepwise down the rocky face of the small cliff. When he did look at her again, his eyes were still sad and a little awed.
"It's a big deal, though. You quit your job to follow me."
She turned her body completely now, needing him to see all of her. Kneeling between his legs, she took his face in both her hands and let her eyes run over his sun-kissed features.
"You have to follow your own shadow sometimes. You're a part of me and I can't separate myself from you any more than I could cut off my own leg. That's just how shadows are. It's never been a question for me if I'd follow you anywhere. Plane, car, boat. I'm there, Castle. I follow you, you follow me."
He drew her in by her waist and she fell forward slightly, bracing one of her hands on the rough bark of the tree trunk. Her nose was an inch from his and his eyes were already closing in the expectation and hope of a kiss.
He breathed her name.
She leaned in, but instead of giving him the kiss his lips wanted, she deviated the path and pressed her lips to his ear. Her heart thundered in her chest as the words spilled forth in a whisper.
"I love you."
He stopped breathing. Her auricular confession floated gently between them and she placed one more kiss behind his ear before coming back out to see his face.
It was glowing.
"You love me?"
She tried to refrain from rolling her eyes and pressed her lips together in a smile she knew he loved. Hadn't it been obvious? Of course she loved him.
"Say it again."
She smiled at the echo of her own words.
"I love you."
She was barely able to finish the words before she was being drawn into a deep, wet, gorgeous kiss. His lips and tongue and teeth and hands were doing positively breathtaking things to her. He pulled back far enough to let in a bit of air, but left their lips touching.
"God, I love you, Kate. So much."
Then he pulled her back in for another luxurious kiss, worshipping her swollen lips with his tongue and the memory of his words. Their food was forgotten in the grass along with the rest of the world. Even when the kiss inevitably ended, the world never really rejoined them in the same way. It seemed to know that the two lovers in the grass below the bending, gnarled tree wanted their own time and space.
They were tied together by more than just hands and arms and legs and words. They were tied by fate and love and light and dark, inseparable on a level that could never be fully understood by anything less than the universe itself. Their bleeding hearts would follow each other to the ends of the earth.
"Ready to go home, Kate?"
"Sure. Lead the way."
But sometimes they just needed to follow each other home.
A/N: I shamelessly pilfered Dorothy Parker's quote about "Too fucking busy and vice versa." I thought it was a perfect line for Kate to shock and tease her boys with. The PI firm idea was CovenStine's. Thanks for that. Would make an interesting fic.
I owe a huge un-pay-back-able thanks to the real life Shannon The Reporter for talking me off of multiple ledges, keeping me from killing off all my characters, and guiding me through the rough spots. This story would never have happened without her.
Thank you to each and every reviewer for taking the time to tell me what you thought. This story has been singular in its ability to draw every imaginable reaction from you guys and I really loved hearing them. Emma, your reviews always seemed to come at a time when I really needed them and I thank you for that.
I have absolutely LOVED writing this story (even when I had myself convinced that I didn't) and I really hope you guys have loved reading it half as much. Thank you for your support and for simply being there. Without you, I wouldn't have anyone to write for.
Side note: A lot of you are wondering when the And the World Turned sequel will be coming. My only answer is that I have no clue. I'm not really "feeling it" yet and I think it would be a huge mistake to start writing a story before I'm inspired to do it.
I DO have an idea for my next fic though…so keep your eyes peeled for that. Follow me on my tumblr for updates. You can find the link to it in my bio on FF.
And now? I bid you all adieu. My heart just broke a little bit.