Title: Clearing the Air

Summary: When Kate wakes up from surgery, there are things that Josh needs to discus with her. Angst. The usual 3x24 spoiler warnings apply.

Rating: T, just to be safe (swear words etc).

Disclaimer: The usual. Sadly.

Author's Note: Don't know where this one came from, folks, but the plot bunnies have been distracting me from following up on Layers of the Onion. Sorry, but until I can get these other ideas out my head, they won't let me work on it. I'm not really happy with the last little bit of this, but the bunnies deserted me, and I just couldn't seem to get it to end quite right. Ah well... As usual, reviews please! ;-)


Kate lay in the hospital bed, surrounded by flowers and balloons, all bearing 'get well soon' messages. Unconscious for a week, she had woken up in a haze of confusion and pain and medication, the only things she could say for certain were that she knew she had been shot, and that the last thing she remembered was Castle leaning over her, begging her to stay with him. The first thing that registered in her mind when she became aware of her surroundings was the rhythmic beeping of the monitoring machines, followed by the feeling of a warm hand wrapped around hers.

Summoning every shred of energy she had, she turned her head to the side and opened her eyes, locking her gaze on the piercing blue orbs of her partner. Feeling the tension she hadn't known she had drain out of her, Kate gave a small, weak smile as she blinked slowly and let the blackness claim her once more, knowing he would be there when she woke.

The next time she woke, she couldn't feel his hand in hers and she panicked, the monitors betraying the frantic beating of her heart. She scanned the room for him, letting out a sigh of relief as she spotted him sitting in a chair near the door, a worried look on his unshaven face. Seeing him there, she allowed herself to take note of the other occupants of the room: her father, Lanie and Esposito, and Josh.

Josh. Her boyfriend. The man who had just seen her wake and ignore him as she looked for her partner. Guilt washed through her as she knew that there was no way she could cover what had just happened, the heart monitor's beeping had shown her fear, and nobody in the room could have missed how she had calmed the instant she had seen Castle.


Knowing that she didn't want to have this conversation right now, Kate also knew that the chances of being able to avoid it were slim at best. She looked up at her boyfriend, and saw the hurt, anger and the confusion on his face. Inside, she braced herself, gathering her strength. Involuntarily, her eyes flicked to Castle. Returning the look, Castle stood, his eyes showing his understanding. Quietly, he addressed Lanie Esposito and Jim.

"Guys? I think Beckett needs some time with her doctor." Understanding immediately, they made their way to the door, leading the way out. Castle followed, silently offering Beckett his support as he left, refusing to acknowledge the doctor in the room with them.

The door had barely closed when Josh spoke, his voice tight.

"Kate, what the hell was that?" Slowly, she reached for the small glass of water on the table, taking a small sip, allowing her to speak.

"Josh, I…" She paused trying to force her thoughts into some kind of coherent order. She sighed before continuing. "How much do you know about what happened?" She changed the topic just slightly, trying to buy herself some time to think.

"Only what I have been told by your friends, which isn't very much at all. I know you got shot while you were at the funeral for your Captain, which I had no idea about by the way. Other than that, hardly anybody will even give me the time of day. You weren't trying to apprehend a suspect, so how is it that you got shot, Kate?"

"It's… complicated."

"Well, how about you un-complicate it for me?"

"If you'll let me finish, I'll try to fill you in on as much as I can, Josh. There are some aspects to the whole thing I can't tell you though."

"Can't, or won't?"

"A bit of both. It involves an active investigation, and the more I tell you, the more likely you are to become involved."

"Aren't I your boyfriend, Kate? Shouldn't I be involved when somebody tries to kill you?"

"Josh," She snapped, her patience wearing thin, the pain not helping her mood at all. "Will you just shut up and listen to me?" She paused for several seconds to see if he was going to butt in again. Seeing that he was content to listen for a while, she went on. "You know that my mother died a long time ago. What you don't know is that her death wasn't an accident. She was murdered, Josh. Her case was written off, left unsolved for years. Two years ago, some more information came to light, and we re-opened the case. I am not going to go into specifics, but what I can tell you is that despite our best efforts, most of our leads on the case have turned up dead. At the funeral, they tried to tidy up the last loose end: me." She took another sip of water and waited for him to ask the questions she knew were coming.

"Kate," He asked, his voice pained. "Why didn't you tell me any of this before?"

"Because…" She paused. "Because I spent a very long time trying to get over it, and when Castle found out it…"

"What the hell, Kate? You told him?"

"Josh, I am only going to tell you this once: If you cut me off one more time, I won't tell you another damn word about it, okay? I am trying to tell you what happened, and if you can't let me do that at my own pace, then you can just deal with not knowing." She glared at him, daring him open his mouth. Seeing the steel in her glare, he kept his mouth shut, nodding for her to continue.

"Right. Now, as I was saying… I don't know how, but somehow, Castle got his hands on the file, and went digging. I didn't tell him about it, I didn't ask him to, in fact when I found out about what he'd done, I was gutted. It almost ended our partnership, but when I had a chance to think it over, to see what he had done, and why he had done it, I forgave him. I trust him with this, because he's earned it. Because of him, I am closer to finding her killer than I ever have been. That is why I got shot at the funeral, Josh, because whoever killed my mother doesn't want me to find him."

Josh sat in silence for a moment, absorbing the information. After some time, he spoke.

"Ok, Kate, I get that he has helped you, that you need closure. That doesn't explain what happened earlier. The way you freaked when you couldn't see him. It doesn't explain why everybody who comes in here to visit you looks at him like he's about to break down, nor why he's here almost every damn minute of every damn day. Explain that for me." Kate sighed, feeling the sting of his words.

"He must have seen the sniper before I was shot. I can't really remember it clearly, but I know that he called my name, and tried to get me out of the way. I know that he held me as I lay on the grass, that the last thing I remember before waking up here was him trying to stop me dying in front of my friends and family. I didn't know what had happened to him, if the snipe had shot him too, after I blacked out. I needed to know that he was safe."

"Kate, he's just the annoying tag along, the man who gets under your feet, why does he mean that much to you?"

Kate actually bit her tongue keeping the hot words back. Taking a calming breath, her voice showed barely a hint of the repressed anger she felt. "Josh, I will say this for the last time. He is my partner, not some 'annoying tag-along'."

"So I save your life, your boyfriend who loves you, and I don't even get a hello out of you, and your partner is the first person you look to when you wake up?" The iron bands of self-control that held Kate in check shattered.

"Josh, you don't want to go down that path, trust me, you don't."

"Why is that, Kate, don't I deserve at least that much?"

"You think saving my life entitles you to guilt me into loving you, is that it?"

"No! But I would have thought it might have helped you let me in, even just a little bit."

"Fine, Josh. You want to be that way, then tell me this: You saved my life, true. If it weren't for Castle, I wouldn't have made it to the damn hospital. In fact, he's done that too often for his own good. You really want to drop your pants and see how you two compare? Castle, the annoying writer, shot a suspect who had me at gunpoint. Castle gave me enough warning to take cover when my apartment got blown up, and then he ran into the burning building to save me. Castle stood in front of an armed gunman who was shooting at us and drew his fire so I had a clear shot. Castle kept me alive, kept me awake as long as he could in that damn freezer. Castle pulled the wires on a bomb that would have killed us both, and Castle, unarmed, tackled a trained killer and beat him bloody to save me. So tell me, Josh, what exactly does he 'deserve' for his efforts? I can tell you exactly what he's done… Been there for me. Always. Even when I treated him like shit, when he saw me with other men, and it had to have cut him up so bad. Even after I kissed him, he didn't say a damn word about it. Even after he had the guts to tell me some hard truths that I didn't want to hear, and I told him we were over, he was still there with me when I got shot. All he has done, all he has asked for, is to tell me that I deserve to be happy, Josh. He loves me, and even if it kills him inside, he'll let me do whatever makes me happy." Her words hung in the air, her heart hammering as she realised what she had said. An uncomfortable silence filled the room, before Josh spoke again.

"You kissed him? When the hell did he tell you he loves you?"

"Yes, Josh, I kissed him. It was a ploy to get into a building where Ryan and Esposito were being tortured, and about to be shot. He kissed me, and I kissed him back, and so help me God, I enjoyed it. He knew that, and I knew that, and because he has so much damned respect for me, he didn't bring it up. The last thing I heard before I passed out at the cemetery… was him telling me that he loved me. The others know, they knew before, but they heard him and so did I." Kate sighed, and took a long drink of water, trying to ease the burning in her throat. Josh flopped into the chair next to Kate's bed and ran his hands through his hair, frustration evident on his face.

"Kate," He said, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "When we first got together, I knew you were hurting, I just hoped that there would come a time when you'd forget him, and move on, and be happy with me. I can't help but feel that if he stopped following you, if you ignored him, we could be. Why did he start following you again, after he left?"

Beckett closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration.

"He left, and didn't call. He came back, and still he didn't call. All because I waited too long... Castle invited me up to his place in the Hamptons, but I turned him down. The next day, I broke up with Demming for him, but it was too late. If I had stopped running just one day sooner, we'd have gone together. Instead, he thought saw me happy with another man, and he left with his ex wife for the whole damned summer. All the time, he thought I was happy. I only found out he was back when we found him at a crime scene, standing over a body, and I arrested him..."

"What?" Josh exclaimed. Rather than snap at him for interrupting her again, Kate laughed, recalling the incident.

"Yeah, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Several times, actually. By the time we had sorted things out between us properly, you and I were dating, and he was, well, still with Gina. He's been a lot more grown up about us than I thought he would be, actually."

"So where does that leave us, Kate? You know I love you, but you still won't let me in, not fully." Beckett steeled herself, knowing the pain her words would cause, knowing that the break needed to be clean, otherwise Josh would allow it to fester. The words that Castle had flung into her face the night before the funeral echoed in her mind, and she decided she needed to be blunt.

"It leaves me not wanting to be in a nowhere relationship with a man I don't love, Josh. We aren't together, not really, we just happened to be going in the same direction for a while. I am not the one for you, I hope you can see that."

He looked at her, and saw nothing but honesty. The pain of her body wrote it's message on her face, but the pain he saw in her eyes let him know just how much admitting that she didn't love him, couldn't love him, had cost her.

"I guess I can. Goodbye, Kate. I hope he makes you happy." Josh stood up, and with a sad smile at the woman laying in the bed, turned and left the room.

Seeing the doctor leave, Castle made his way back in to Beckett's room. Her eyes fixing onto his, Kate smiled, lighting up her face.

"Come here." She ordered, raising her right hand to him, calling him over. Needing no further invitation, Castle crossed the floor to her bedside, and laced his fingers with hers. Not seeing Lanie or her father, Kate frowned as she asked "Dad? Lanie?"

"Lanie had some bodies that needed looking at. She'll be back when she gets off though, as will the others. Your dad slipped down to the cafeteria for some coffee, shouldn't be too long."

"That's okay. I needed to talk to you anyway." Seeing him open his mouth to reply, she cut him off. "Rick? Please just hear me out, okay?" She waited for him to nod before she went on. "We have some things to talk about, and I need to do it without you interrupting for a bit, please." He nodded again, nerves starting to take hold as he sat down in the chair recently vacated by Josh. Absently, she drew small circles on the back of their joined hands with her thumb. A nervous smile on her face, she looked him over, seeing the worry evident in his features. She took a breath, and spoke. "Actually, Rick, I want you to think back to when you asked me to the Hamptons. Can we just ignore everything that happened after that... Can you pretend for a moment I wasn't such an idiot, and said yes...?"