Chapter 12: Deflecting Ascent
Kate regarded the view from her hospital window. The western sun relayed its message of hope with golden streams that bounced and played with the greenery and twittering songs of the birds in the quad below. It was a quiet evening. Peaceful. Any shadows playing along the concrete were just a reminder of the false armistice that had happened within herself.
Kate tore her vision away from the world she was about to rejoin. It had been two days since she had collapsed. It had been two days of tests until it was finally decided that she was fit to be released. Kate looked around the room that had been her quasi home? Resting place? Whatever it was, there was an attachment to it that probably had everything to do with Castle.
Castle had been by her side for the last two days, and while they volleyed words back and forth in their familiar way, each look that was stolen was one of melancholy. He had become pensive, but his demeanor changed every time she tried to push him away. He would push back. One thing that was certain, things needed to fall back to how they were. One where he was on his side of the wall and she was on hers.
The detective moved about the room, putting her clothes in her duffel bag. She made the bed, even though it would be stripped. She wanted to leave no evidence that she was here. No evidence that for two weeks they had shared this room together. That he had seen her at her lowest. No evidence that Detective Kate Beckett couldn't take on the world.
After trailing the zipper along its path, Kate reached into her pocket to retrieve her mother's ring. She hadn't been able to wear it since she collapsed, since she felt like she was forsaking the memory of her mother.
Kate held the small ring in the palm of her hand as she leaned against the windowsill. She brought her fingers around it and squeezed it so hard that she hoped it would bore into her flesh and give her strength. Give her answers.
"I'm so sorry, Mom," she whispered to the empty room.
Kate heard a brief knock on the door before Karen entered the room. Smile wide, eyes full of joy.
"You aren't even on shift today," Kate said in an accusatory fashion.
Karen just smiled wider, "I switched shifts so I could see my favorite patient off."
"I'm your favorite?" Kate asked, in complete disbelief.
"Sure, there were moments when I wanted to sedate you and strap you to the bed, but overall, you did spice up my life a bit."
"I'm sorry about that."
"Don't be. Because of you we know that Aggie is a deranged murderer and Sam is stuffed with stupid."
Aggie Renalds had done what she set out to do. Now she was a ghost. No leads. Kate didn't expect there would be.
"Things seemed to have settled down here, now that you are in charge."
"More paper work, longer hours, not much more pay, but I get to boss a bunch of people around. I'm gonna love it. Speaking of L.O.V.E...where is that writer of yours?"
"He should be here soon."
"Good. That's good." Karen rocked on her heels, smiling.
"You want an autograph, don't you?"
"No, actually. I got one of those from him once. Years ago. I was one of 'those' girls."
"He signed your chest?"
"I swear, one minute I am calm and collected, then he smiled at me and next thing I knew I was walking away with his signature on my breast."
"Soft hands," Kate stated knowingly.
"The man knows how to moisturize."
"If it is not an autograph, then it must be those secret pics you have been taking of us."
"True to your profession, I see." Karen reached for her phone and turned to show Kate. "He asked me to take a few pics of the two of you. Nothing salacious, well there is that one of him sleeping on your hand. So cute!"
"Would you mind?" Kate gestured to the phone.
"Of course not!" Karen jumped on the bed and patted the spot next to her. Kate did as she asked and soon the two of them were looking at pictures of Castle, Kate and everyone who had visited her. They were pictures of her family. Of people who she had already tried to push away. Kate was surprised that she was smiling in some of these. A smile that seemed to be linked to one man which made Kate's hearts soar and sink all at once.
"This one is from yesterday. Even though he kept it trimmed, I'm so glad that he shaved that thing off his face."
It really didn't matter to Kate, beard or not he was still Castle. She was dying to touch his face though. She denied herself the act for two days, or some would say three years.
"How many more do you have?"
"I am not going to give you a number, because I'm pretty sure you would have me arrested for stalking."
Kate smiled. She was going to miss Karen.
"This one. Really, no, you need to fawn over this one."
The green-eyed detective regarded the picture. It was one of the times when Castle had fallen asleep in his chair when Karen came to do her rounds. This particular picture captured Kate tucking a blanket around him and moving his hair away from his face. Maybe she would keep that one. Who was she kidding? She was going to keep all of them. Mementos from a time with him that she may never have again.
"Go on. Keep looking at them all, you know you want to. There are tons of him sleeping on your hand. One of you drooling as well. He insisted I take that one."
As Karen's animated voice continued, Kate started to flip through the pictures, or more like evidence of what most people could only dream of finding. She kept clicking on until a particular picture came into focus.
"Who is this?"
"Oh... Harold Smidtz," Karen made her best disgusted face. "The guy who conspired with Sam to kill his own grandfather for his inheritance, only to find out there was no money. Karma bitch slapped his sorry dirt-bag ass," Karen stated through clenched teeth.
Kate gave Karen an amused look.
"What I meant to say, in a more professional manner, that I didn't care for him and he got what he deserved."
Kate studied the picture some more. That's when she saw it. Two people just down the hall from where Harold was standing. It was a short, stubby set of arms holding a bouquet of flowers. Lilies. The person holding the flowers was out of the shot, but the person handing over a bag wasn't.
Kate got up from the bed and moved back towards the window, so Karen would not notice her actions. She regarded the picture once again. The arms were probably Aggie's, because the flowers were most definitely lilies and in the bag, poking out the top, were two black, plush ears that no doubt belonged to a teddy bear that Kate knew all too well.
Kate's green eyes zeroed in on the person handing over the bag. She was young. Younger than Kate. Her black, cropped hair fell just below her ears, making her sharp features even more defined. She wasn't very tall, but she was in good shape. It wasn't the clearest image, but it was enough. She could be just courier, or she could be so much more. It was a lead. Suddenly, she felt some of those loose ends come a little bit closer and the weight of her mother's ring, still in her hand, seemed to decrease.
"Has Castle seen these?" The detective asked Karen.
"No, not yet. Why? Do you not want him too?"
"No, that's fine, he'll...he'll want them. Would you mind if I kept these?"
"I must insist that you do! Go ahead and forward them."
Kate quickly sent herself the picture, before deleting it off Karen's phone. She also sent herself the other ones as well.
"Thanks." She gave the phone back to the nurse.
"He was cute in pretty much all of them, right?"
Kate just smiled softly, garnering a stern look from Karen.
"I'm not going to pretend I know anything about what went on or what will happen between you two, but just between you and me, just once, say it." Karen waited, her hands gripping the edge of the bed, leaning towards Kate.
"He's...handsome," Kate mumbled, "Ruggedly handsome."
Karen gave a squeal, jumped off the bed and hugged the detective as gently as she could, "I'm going to miss you, but you are in good, strong, big, very big hands."
All Kate could do was allow her cheeks to be stained momentarily red, as the image of Castle was now competing with the image of the mysterious young woman from the picture.
"Well, I am going to go and get all of your release forms ready." Karen made her way to the door.
"Oh, could you get my insurance papers ready as well. I need to have everything in order."
Karen froze by the door, "Um. Right. Sure. OK." She said before quickly leaving the room.
Kate only noted the oddness briefly before she found herself reaching for her phone. She stared at the picture again. She knew what it meant. Knew what it could lead too. But this time would be different.
Roy had spoken the truth in the hangar. If he told her who was behind it then she would have ran right to him and she probably would be dead and not just wounded. This was a new game. Higher stakes and she was going to do this right. But she would have to take her time. Search out the evidence she needed and above all else, she needed her strength back.
The weakness, the utter uselessness, she felt from being here, stung. She only remembered feeling like this right after her mother's death, before she found a purpose, a goal to strive towards. She believed in her badge. Believed in the pursuit of what was right and just. Kate squeezed her hand over her mother's ring. She believed that no one was safe with this madman on the loose, thinking he had a right to a life when the bodies of good people provided the foundation for it.
That hunger from within started to find the light of day again. Kate tamed it. She needed time and she would do it with the friend and foe known as: solitude.
Castle, Ryan, Esposito, Lanie...none of them could know she was pursuing this again. This was her fight. Only hers. That way everyone would be kept safe.
The only problem was, how on earth was she going to keep Castle away when all she really wanted was to never let him go?
Kate was brought out of her thoughts when she heard a knock on the door, followed by his voice.
"I hope you aren't dressed yet." He poked his head through the door and looked at her with a disappointed look.
"I'm surprised you even knocked."
Castle came through the door holding a thin, black box in his hand, "It was a toss up. I would love nothing more than to walk in on you changing again."
"Once will have to be enough."
'For now' his eyes told her. "Finished packing?"
Kate nodded before noticing him fiddling with the item in his hand. "Whatcha got there, Castle? I hope you aren't buying me presents."
"No, but my mother decided that you needed a present."
"For finally leaving the hospital?"
"For putting up with me for two weeks."
"Smart woman." She took the box from him. "Do you know what it is?"
He shook his head, "I'm sure it is something that will cause me to squirm uncomfortably which should mean that you'll love it."
Kate untied the simple red ribbon and took the lid off the small black box. Her mother's ring slipped down from her hand and fell against a picture of a boy. A young, chubby cheeked Richard Castle, wearing an apron, covered in mud and holding a handful of gummy worms. Kate ran her finger along the side of the frame, her mother's chain following the action.
"What is it?" Castle craned his neck, trying to see what it was.
Kate held it down so he could see. She expected him to cause a bit of fuss, but nothing came. She looked up into his warm, glistening eyes.
"I was pretty cute, huh?"
"Too bad you grew out of it."
"You don't mind if I keep this?"
He shook his head, "I wouldn't want anyone else to have it."
Kate gingerly placed the lid back on the box. She really shouldn't accept it, but there was no way she was ever going to give it back.
Castle reached over and tugged on her mother's necklace, "May I?"
She nodded. He untangled the chain until the ring fell between them, swayed and twirled. His hands brought the chain up and placed in around her head. It fell against her chest as he lifted her long wavy hair from underneath it. The writer's right hand lingered as he trailed down the chain until he held the ring in his palm.
Kate watched his face. Each feature had known hardships, but since he had decided to shadow her she noticed they had grown deeper. His care-free life had been given a reality check. They had both been given a reality check. That's why it was there on the tip of his tongue. He wanted to asked her to walk away from her mother's case. But he said nothing.
Then something foreign passed over his features. A dark shadow. A weight of some kind that she had seen building over the last two days. His eyes glimmered with a unforgiving sincerity. As promise to someone, maybe her, maybe her mother or maybe even to himself. She wasn't sure what it was exactly, but it caused her heart to hitch.
The ring slipped from his hand and they ended up just looking at who they had become and who they were to each other. So much was left undefined and yet something lingered between the two of them that went beyond the mere attraction they felt for each other. It tingled. It teased. It throbbed. It was powerful enough to cause Kate to reach up and place her hand on his cheek wishing things could be different. Maybe they could have been if choices hadn't already been made.
"Nice too see you are still keeping up your grooming habits," she whispered as her hand dropped. Barriers, she needed those again.
He must have sensed she was pulling away because he broached a subject neither of them had talked about. "About the other day..."
"What about it?" Both of them avoided talking about the collapse and what had happened. Probably for the same revealing reasons.
"I never meant to turn my phone off. If I had known that Aggie was behind it, I would have never left your side."
"I know, Castle. But you can't expect me to believe you were just out strolling."
He paused. She waited.
"I was..." there was such a tumultuous turnover in his blue eyes that she couldn't pinpoint one emotion, "...thinking."
"That explains it. That would take you a while," she chided still searching for any and all of his tells.
He pinched his lips together and nodded, "I let you have that dig."
"No, you walked head first into it."
"I guess, I'm out of practice. And you know what that means? I need to spend more time with my sparring partner. Verbal sparring that is. Or other," he rambled. He had been doing that quite a bit over the last two days as well. They both were playing a lovely game of deflection it seemed.
"Where were you thinking?"
"Really? Because I phoned and you weren't at home. Alexis didn't even know where you were."
"Thanks for that, by the way. Got a nice lecture on 'always phoning' from my daughter."
"There was quite the gap between when you left and when you got here."
"I was at home, then I came to the hospital. I just...needed to walk and then I just...sat for a while. A long while. It was just a stupid mistake on my part."
Why did she feel that it was a lie? He wouldn't lie to her like this. Would he? Roy did, daily. But Castle was not Roy. Any excuse to keep him at arms length, to keep him from getting close seemed to be mounting against him, whether it was warranted or not.
"Next time, don't turn off your phone."
"Is that an order?"
"Consider it a life sentence."
"Do I get conjugal visits?"
She actually laughed and his face lit up in appreciation of the robust sound.
"So...you want to test it cheek to cheek and make sure I'm not...what did you call it? Prickly?" Castle ran his hand over his face.
He grinned making his way over to the door.
"Where are you going?" Kate called after him.
"To get this." He pulled the most offensive object through the door. She had been rolled into this hospital and she really did not want to be rolled out of it.
"What is that?"
"There is no way in hell you are rolling me out in that."
"Oh, come on. I never get to push you around!"
"That's how I like it."
"I'll pop a few wheelies and make car noises."
She crossed her arms.
"I will get Karen. You know which side she'll take."
Kate did know. She just had the slide show to prove it.
"Castle," she groaned in frustration.
"It is either this or I'll sweep you off your feet and carry you out. All the nurses would cheer."
Kate huffed, grabbed her coat, the picture and sat in the chair. Castle slung her duffel over his shoulder.
"See? Was that so hard?"
Both Castle and Kate gave the room one last look before leaving. Castle rolled her down the hallway, through the waiting room where more families were waiting to hear about their loved ones. They were almost at the elevator when she heard it.
Maybe if she ignored him he would stop.
No, ignoring him only made him louder. "Castle!"
He tipped the wheel chair back and she gripped the arms in shock and looked up at him, fuming. "You want train noises instead?"
Rick put her down as they entered the elevator. His boyish grin had been her down fall yet again. Kate brought her hand to her mouth to stop herself from smiling as he started to make train noises. He stopped when they made it to the lobby. Karen held her hand up to wait for her, as she talked to a couple of the nursing staff.
"She's going to run a tight ship," Castle said.
"A murder free one, hopefully," Kate responded, as she looked outside in longing.
"You want to wait for her out there?"
"Um..." She did more than anything. She wasn't worried that she would be shot; she knew that whomever ordered her mother's murder had also given her a reprieve. Kate was concerned for other reasons. Photo-op reasons.
"Don't worry. I've taken care of it. No one is out there waiting for us." His tone suggested he meant something other than photographers.
"How did you manage that?"
"I have my ways," he said mysteriously. He pushed her through the doors until they were both greeted by the evening sun. A light breeze of freedom picked up her hair as she got out of the wheel chair. Kate tried taking a deep breath. Her diaphragm and lungs weren't used to this sort of excitement or fresh air. It was a start. She felt, for the first time, that she could recover from this.
Kate turned to look at him, the rays of light giving her form a silhouette. His reaction was one she had seen many times and she found she wanted to cling to it a little more than usual.
He stepped towards her, "I hope you are hungry."
Kate closed her eyes and inwardly cringed. Dinner at the loft. She had forgotten all about it. It was only going to get worse the more she let him stay.
"About dinner, I know you have something huge planned, but I think I should just take a cab home. Lanie and my dad said they would take turns checking on me."
"What about me?"
"You have a home."
"I do, but who will read you a bedtime story? Who is going to serve you breakfast in bed?"
"I'll read on my own and make my own breakfast."
"I would wear nothing but an apron," he said, enticingly.
She did have this blue apron that would bring out his eyes.
"Hah! you were totally thinking about it!"
Her eyes darted to the side, "N-no. I wasn't."
"Blush, my dear detective, never lies."
"I'm just getting my color back." The look in his eyes suggested that he was just getting started. He wasn't letting this go. He wasn't letting her go without a fight.
"Why don't you just admit it?" he asked.
He leaned closer. The shadows from the leaves scattered across his features, making him dangerous and tempting all at once. "That you, Katherine Beckett, liked sharing a room with me, just as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you."
"You enjoyed waking up with me next to you," he raised his voice causing a few people to give them odd looks.
"Keep your voice down!" she hissed.
"I will if you just admit it."
"There's something seriously wrong with you!" she stated through clenched teeth.
"So wrong, it's right. Come on...say it." His voice was getting stronger.
"Fine. I'll say it. You have no respect for my privacy, whatsoever."
Guilt ran across his features, and she was just about to take it back until he masked it with a smile, "Very true. I'm working on that. Sort of. What else you got?" he challenged.
"You flip through channels like it's a race, hog the remote, have a running commentary through everything and you snore."
"So do you and you drool. Karen is giving me proof."
"I-I do not snore," she stated, aghast.
"Don't worry, I find it sexy."
"I don't want you to find it anything."
"Too late. You're still not saying it." His voice was going up an octave.
She sighed, "Your presence was tolerable," she mumbled.
"What was that?" he put his hand up to his ear, "Tolerable, you say?"
"It's not like I was picking daisy petals over you."
He took a deep breath to yell something when she clamped her hand over his mouth. "I liked having you there. Alright? Happy?" She took her hand away.
An annoyingly triumphant grinned followed, "That's all I needed to hear. Now about me staying over..."
She was never going to get rid of him. "I don't have a guest room."
"Couch is fine."
"I already told you my dad and then Lanie are going to be-"
"We're..." he paused, choosing his words carefully, "we're friends, right?"
Sure, that and about a whole host of other things that she was supposed to be walling up once again.
"Friends help each other out," he continued.
"I think that it's for the best that I just go home. Sleep and recover."
They stared at each other for a moment before he conceded, "If that's what you want," he pushed her hair over her shoulder and trailed his hand down her arm, "Then I will just drive you home."
That was easy, "Thank...you."
He smiled and she caught that devilish glint in his blue eye. Oh, that's why it was easy.
"You moved the entire dinner to my place, didn't you?"
Castle smiled brilliantly, "Isn't it great that I know you so well?"
No. It wasn't great. It was romantic, sweet, and he made everything ten times more difficult.
"So it will just be us?" She asked, trying to hide her nervousness.
"We have been alone for almost two weeks and we didn't manage to kill each other."
"It was touch and go there for a while."
"I know. That kiss almost killed us both."
She looked away from him, trying to get a hold on this conversation. Why was this so God-damned hard? She had been pushing him away for years and now. She looked at him out of the corner of her eyes and suppressed a groan. Did he have to smile like that?
He stepped toward her and took her hands into his. Eventually she looked at him, "Kate, if you want it to be just dinner, it will be just dinner. Nothing more."
Just dinner? It was never going to be just dinner between them. That familiar feeling she rarely let her self feel came in an upswing. It was fragmentary though. This known apogee between them had moved from something cosmic to something chosen. When it would turn to something kismet, she didn't know anymore. Maybe they weren't meant to know just yet.
"That's what I...that's what I want."
"At least you sound convinced," he quipped before Karen started walking towards them. He quickly added, "Oh and I forgot to mention we won't be alone."
"What? Why didn't you just say that?"
He shrugged, "I told you. Sparring practice."
One night. She could handle one night and then she would put a plan in motion. "Who exactly is coming over to my apartment?"
"I read somewhere that people heal faster when they are surrounded by a support system."
Kate didn't know what was worse, being alone with him, or being in a room with people who wanted them together. She also hadn't been there it two weeks, and it was probably a disaster, not to mention her mother's case was still on her shutters.
"Don't worry. While you relax, I get everything ready for dinner. Unless you want to come to my place as originally planned?"
"No...my place is fine." It would be easier to kick him out of her place than trying to leave his place.
"Oh, let me capture this moment," Karen interrupted them, holding up her phone, "Come on, get down in there Mr. Castle."
Castle did as he was ordered, giving Kate a quick peck on the cheek. Karen snapped the photo, grinning from ear to ear.
"Can I go now?" Kate asked, already feeling exhausted.
"Yes. Go. Fly out of the nest, my little fledgling."
"You're becoming as dramatic as Castle."
"That is very high praise and you can send me that one as well," Castle stated.
"Now...I don't want to see either of you in here unless it is to invite me to the wedding or...if you want to jump the gun...I will be on the mat ward lickety-split if need be."
Kate groaned and Castle beamed. Both blushed.
"Glad we are all on the same page. Now sign this and you are free to go." Kate signed her discharge papers with a swift hand, "Stay un-shot, okay?" Karen said with a wink before turning towards the hospital.
"Wait! Karen, where are my insurance forms? I need to fill those out before I leave."
Karen reached underneath the chart for the papers. "Here you go," Karen handed them over to Kate. Then she looked at Castle and mouthed 'I'm sorry' before scurrying back into the hospital.
As Kate read, she felt her anger rise. She looked up and found that Castle was backing away. She reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Ah, looks like you're getting your strength back," he said looking at her strong hold on his arm.
"Why does this say that it has been paid? By you?"
"How do you know it was me?"
She showed him his signature.
"That's some good detective work, but I'm sure there are many Richard Castles in the world."
"You can't do this for me."
"Can and did. If you want though, you can yell at me all the way to dinner, how's that?"
"I'm paying you back."
"That will be entertaining, since I have no intention of accepting it."
"Unbelievable!" She started walking across the quad, "You're unbelievable."
"And adorable, charming, charismatic and-"
"This isn't over."
"No, you're right," his voice poured over her like hot lemon and honey before he added quietly, "This isn't over, not by a long shot."
Kate looked over at him and saw he was looking down the path to the side of the building, as if waiting for something to happen. He protectively moved closer to her and they fell back into arguing with one another. The hospital soon faded behind them as the sparrows of the quad ascended toward the sky.
That's all she wrote. Literally. I don't have a word left to spare ;) This story has been a hodgepodge experience for me. It has given me an opportunity to 'meet' some truly wonderful people, explore these Castle characters and to challenge myself. It also has uprooted a lot of mistakes/problems in my writing, which I am going to assess immediately.
I know I promised a sequel; however, I am worried I may not have enough time write it. I don't want to have too long of wait between chapters so, I will promise to try my best. I think/hope I can find a compromise. If it doesn't happen then I think this story ended in a decent enough manner. I would suggest putting me on author alert just in case :)
I would, of course, appreciate any feedback you are willing to give. I would honestly love to hear your thoughts.
I will just end this Author's note with a hearty and sincere THANK YOU to all the people who have reviewed, read, alerted or favored this story. You have my gratitude for your kindness and I am grateful I was able to share my work with you. Until next we meet.