So very truly sorry, guys. I know it's been forever. School has taken over my life. It may be another week before I get the next chapter up...I hate to keep y'all waiting, but school has to come first. :( Thanks for your patience, and your reviews and support!
On a happier note, the last 2 weeks of Castle have been wonderful! YAY! Especially Monday's episode: the sexual tension was back and Castle wasn't getting kicked around like an abused puppy. Always a plus.
Chapter 11: Confrontation
Kate was waiting by the elevator by the time Josh caught up, but she said nothing as they rode to the ground floor and made their way through the large, open lobby and out onto the busy sidewalk.
It was still hot, but the humidity had waned to slightly less stifling levels. It was the first time Kate had payed the slightest bit of attention to the weather since the previous Saturday. She relished the heat enveloping her body, the warmth of the sun's powerful rays beating down on her skin, the blinding light reflecting off of surrounding cars and buildings.
Kate leaned against the stone wall of the building and closed her eyes as Josh stood next to her, stiff and silent. She took a deep breath, but didn't open her eyes before speaking. "You do know he was in a medically-induced coma for two days, right? Do you really think that was the best way to handle the situation?"
"How was I supposed to know what was going on?" Josh shot back. "I haven't talked to you in days, Kate. And then I walk in and you're all over him-"
"That's a bit of an exaggeration, Josh" Kate defended, her eyes snapping open to shoot daggers at the surgeon. She took a deep breath, calming herself, wanting to maintain control of the situation. "I'm sorry I haven't called." She said a bit stiffly.
Josh took a moment to curtail his own temper. "I know you were worried. I get it. I mean, obviously he's…not in great shape."
"Which is exactly why he didn't need you barging in and freaking out" Kate replied, her irritation making an abrupt reappearance.
"I know, Kate. It's just…I mean, I've called half a dozen times in the past couple of days with no response, and then I walk in and see you practically sitting on his lap, holding his hand-"
"It wasn't like that" Kate insisted, almost as if by reflex. She was so used to denying that there was anything going on with Castle, so used to denying that he was anything more than her friend, that words like these had become a knee-jerk response. Especially with Josh. She took a deep breath, though, and reconsidered. "No, you know what? It was exactly like that."
Josh just stared at her through wide brown eyes, pain and anger intermingling in their dark depths. "You know, I've always told myself I was crazy for wondering about you two, but...How long?"
"How long what?"
"How long have you been cheating?"
"I'm not! My God, Josh. I haven't cheated."
"So you've never slept with him."
"Never kissed him?"
Kate closed her eyes, jaw clenched, and took a cleansing breath. This was not the direction this conversation was supposed to take. "Once." She responded. There was no need to tell him that the kiss was just a diversion so that they could save Ryan and Esposito, since Kate wasn't even sure she believed that herself. That particular detail was irrelevant. The kiss hadn't been meaningless, so the circumstances behind it didn't matter.
"See, I consider that cheating" said Josh, his tone icy.
"Look, Josh, the fact of the matter is that I was never really with you. Not completely." Josh's responding glare was both shocked and furious, his hands clenched in white-knuckled fists. "It's not that I don't like you, I do. But I don't like you as much as I should. Not as much as you deserve."
"Because you think you're in love with the writer" Josh snapped, putting more venom on the last word than Kate had thought the good doctor capable. She knew there was no shortage of animosity between the two men; Castle had been a topic of dissent between she and Josh more than once before, and Rick did only a mediocre job of hiding his jealousy. But Kate hadn't been aware of the level of hatred the surgeon evidently felt toward Castle.
"There's no 'think' about it, Josh."
"He'll hurt you."
"Maybe" Kate admitted, "but that's between me and Castle."
"He's not good enough for you, Kate" Josh pressed, hurt outweighing anger in his eyes now.
Kate shook her head, but smiled in spite of herself. "You don't know him."
"Maybe you're the one I don't know."
"Maybe you're right."
They stood in silence for a while, watching the traffic crawl by through the asphalt-scented haze created by the sweltering heat. "I couldn't have done anything differently, could I?" Josh asked after a few moments. "It was never about you and me. It was always about you and him.''
There was no way to make this hurt any less, was there? The truth of the matter was that it had started because of Castle just as much as it was ending because of him. When Kate had met Josh, her primary goal had been to distract herself from Castle's sudden and painful departure, from the months she had trudged through in the writer's absence. The fact that Kate had known how painfully jealous Castle would be of the tall, handsome surgeon, if and when he returned, had been a definite bonus. It was only after spending a significant amount of time with Josh that she had realized what a great guy he was and had genuinely started to like the man. She just hadn't ever liked Josh the way she did Castle.
"I'm sorry" Kate finally responded.
"Yeah" said Josh, his tone clipped. "Yeah, so am I." He stood, shoving away from the wall at his back. "Take care, Kate." And without so much as a glance backward, Josh turned and walked away.
"You're limping" Will remarked as Kate approached. He stood in the hallway outside Castle's room, leaning against the wall with his legs crossed. "What happened?"
"Oh, I twisted my ankle during the case" said Kate dismissively. "It's nothing."
"You're limping pretty bad," said Will, "you should have that checked out."
"It's nothing, Will."
"Alright, alright" the Agent acquiesced, holding up his hands in innocence. "Castle's asleep, by the way."
"Thanks for staying" Kate replied. "He was in a lot of pain when you got there, and I just didn't really wanna leave him alone. He won't ask for help."
"It's no big deal." Will said with a shrug. "I always liked him, anyway."
Kate's eyebrows disappeared into her hairline as she scoffed. "No you didn't."
Will grinned in response. "Okay, so we're never gonna be best friends. But…I don't know, Castle's...he's an interesting guy. Definitely smart, and" Will glanced over his shoulder in the direction of Castle's room, "surprisingly tough, apparently."
"He is that" Kate agreed, chewing her lip.
"Even on that first case -'course I never would've admitted it, since it seemed like he was in the way of you and I getting back together- but I respected him."
"I think he probably feels the same way about you" said Kate.
"He does." Said Will, grinning. Kate gave him a questioning look. "He told me. Apparently whatever limited filter he has between his brain and his mouth is removed by morphine."
"Oh...no wonder he said he didn't like being high." Kate chuckled.
"So" said Will after a brief pause, "boyfriend, huh?"
Kate's eyes left her ex in favor of the floor. "Not anymore."
"Ah." Will shifted uncomfortably. "Listen, I wanted to let you know that the AUSA is gonna want you and Castle to testify against Wharton. It's a pretty rock-solid case anyway, with the blood evidence and all, but we're really gonna need you to tie him to Gary Hobson's murder."
"The gun he was carrying wasn't a match to the one that killed Hobson?"
Will shook his head. "No, he must've dumped it." Kate must have looked worried, because Will nudged her reassuringly as he continued. "Look, the guy's smart, but he's cocky. He confessed to you, and I'd be willing to bet Castle got him to talk too. We'll get him, don't worry."
"We better" Kate whispered, mostly to herself. "Will?" she asked after a moment "Why did Wharton leave Castle alive down there? Why didn't he kill him?"
"I've been asking myself that question for two days" Will replied. "Wharton's not saying a word, not even to the guards, or to Morgan."
"What about Castle's books? The ones we found in Wharton's apartment?"
"Morgan says they're classic evidence of Antisocial Personality Disorder, and he clearly fixated on Castle's belief in the idea of good versus evil, you know, justice. I guess Wharton wanted to prove him wrong. But Morgan has no idea why Castle's still alive. I guess that's a question we'll have to ask Castle."
Rick didn't wake before Martha and Alexis returned. Dr. Schmidt insisted that this was perfectly normal, but Kate couldn't help feeling uneasy whenever he lay still that way, whenever his eyes remained closed for any extended period. Kate watched him carefully, focusing as much as possible on the only signs of life: his still-strained breathing and the occasional furrow of his brow, as if he was in pain or having a troubling dream. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.
As Kate waited for him to wake, she tried to imagine what she would say when he did. How was she supposed to start this conversation? "Hey, Castle, I know you're in excruciating pain right now and you were kidnapped and almost killed, but I love you." That wouldn't work. "Glad you're awake, Castle. Listen, I broke up with Josh." Not ideal. "Sorry Josh was such a douche earlier. I broke up with him. By the way, I love you." Better, but still awkward. The confidence she had expressed to Josh was waning, increasingly replaced by doubts and ''what ifs" and thoughts of blonde publishers and deep fried Twinkies.
Martha and Alexis practically forced Kate out of the room when they arrived at around six, insisting that it was "her turn to sleep." Instead of heading back to her apartment, though, Kate somehow wound up knocking on Dr. Lanie Parrish's door.
"Hey, sweetie" the ME greeted. "What's going on? Castle okay?"
"Yeah, Lanie, he's okay. Is Esposito here?"
Lanie shook her head. "Nope. With Kevin. I think they were heading to visit Castle and then heading to visit Castle's bar."
"You're letting your man take advantage of free drinks while the owner's in the hospital?" Kate teased as her friend ushered her into the tidy apartment.
"Girl, you know Castle wouldn't let em pay anyway. And fortunately for you" Lanie said as she took a bottle of vodka from the freezer, "neither to I. So what brings you by? You're limping."
"I just twisted my ankle."
"Did you want me to take a look?"
"Do I look like a corpse to you?"
"Close enough, girl. You look like crap. And I did learn a thing or two about live people in medical school, you know."
Kate sighed. "It's fine, really." She took a seat on Lanie's comfortable couch, letting the soft brown leather envelope her aching body. "Josh tracked me down today. Any idea how he might've found out where I was?" Kate raised her eyebrows at Lanie.
"Honey, please. You know me better than that." Lanie poured the vodka into two tumblers, carrying them to the couch as Kate followed. "He did call, I told him I hadn't seen you lately. He probably found out from the hospital or Gates."
"Yeah, probably" said Kate, draining half of her vodka in one gulp.
"But let's be honest, girl, you did need to talk to him." She shook her head, disapproving.
"I know, I know." Kate raised her hands in defeat.
"So what happened?"
"He barged into Castle's room and started freaking out."
"Why did he freak out?"
Kate gazed at Lanie over the rim of her glass, then drained the rest. "I was kinda sitting on Castle's bed...Holding his hand."
"You haven't even heard the best part yet. Will was there too."
"Oh" Lanie's eyes widened comically. "What was Agent Adonis doin' there?"
"He came by to check on Castle."
"Really. Will was great about the whole thing" said Kate, shaking her head in disbelief. "He even stayed in the room with Castle while I went to talk to Josh."
"Aw, honey. He still has a thing for you, doesn't he?" Lanie remarked sympathetically.
Kate nodded. "Yeah, but he's not trying to get back together or anything. In fact, he pretty much gave Castle and I his blessing."
Lanie laughed, and Kate couldn't help but join her. It really was ridiculous. "He was defending Castle. Actually told Josh to back off."
"Oh, girl. I would've loved to be a fly on the wall in that room" said Lanie, topping off her own drink and re-filling Kate's. "So what happened with Dr. Motorcycle Boy?"
"We broke up."
"Bout damn time."
Kate didn't disagree. "I wouldn't exactly call it amicable, but we didn't have a shouting match in the street or anything."
"That's somethin, I guess. So what now?"
"What do you mean, what now?"
The ME shot her a look. "Castle."
Kate sighed, draining her second glass of cold, clear liquid and leaning back against the couch cushion. "Not sure."
"What did he say about Josh?"
"Nothing. He doesn't know yet."
"Why the hell not?" Lanie demanded.
"He was asleep!"
"Alright, alright" Lanie relented. For a moment. "But you are gonna tell him."
"I- When the time's right, yeah."
"Hell no." Lanie spat. Kate was taken aback. She was used to Lanie's blunt, spunky nature, but not to this level of anger from her best friend. "It's bad enough that you've strung him along all this time, sending him all these mixed signals so he doesn't know where the hell he stands. It's bad enough that it took him almost getting killed for you to finally admit -to yourself or anybody else- that he's more than just your 'friend.' You're hurting him, Kate. And it needs to stop."
"I didn't…I mean, I wasn't intentionally-"
"I know, honey. I know you weren't" said Lanie, taking Kate's hand. "But you have hurt him." The two women sat in silence for a few moments, Lanie watching Kate carefully as the detective's eyes attempted to bore a hole in the cream-colored carpet. "Tell me something" said Lanie, breaking the silence, "what do you want to happen with Castle?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you wanna date him? Marry him? Sleep with him once and then never talk to him again? Kick him out of the precinct and never talk to him again?"
"No!" Kate insisted.
"To which part?"
"Th-the kicking him out part. He's my best friend-"
"Hey, now." Lanie objected, releasing Kate's hand.
"One of my best friends" Kate amended, and Lanie gave a nod, appeased. "I definitely want him in my life, especially after, you know…that summer."
"I do know. Most of Manhattan knows."
"I'm just sayin', girl, you were kinda miserable to be around. But you didn't answer my question. And 'keep things like they are and see what happens' is not an option. You're drivin yourselves and everybody else crazy with this whole will they/won't they, 'we're just friends' crap."
Kate paused, shifting uncomfortably. "I mean, I guess…op-option one?"
"Okay, you wanna date Castle" said Lanie. "Why the hell does that scare you so much?"
"Because he...I mean, he's-"
"Rich, fine, smart, funny, incredibly sweet and completely in love with you?"
"Not…what I was going to say, but…"
"It's true" Lanie insisted.
"Well…yeah" Kate admitted. "But he's also got two ex wives and a whole string of conquests, he's gets all this media attention-"
"Excuses, excuses" Lanie interrupted. "Bottom line, honey, is that you're scared you're gonna get hurt because he's the only one you care about enough that he really could hurt you."
Kate just stared at her friend, trying to formulate a response. It was true, she realized, and her list of reasons and excuses all boiled down to that one fact. She nodded. "And I'd be losing my -one of my- best friends."
"No you wouldn't" said Lanie, leaning forward to grasp kate's hand once again. "He'd still be your second-best friend, he'd just be something else, too. Girl, if you give that man a chance...he could give you everything you've ever wanted."
"Or we could spontaneously combust."
"You could. I don't think it'll happen, but you could" said Lanie, shrugging. "But if you don't give it a shot you'll never know."
Kate sighed, clamping her eyes shut, and Lanie gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Honey, you two have been through hell together already and you're still a damn good team. Better than ever, actually. And no matter how many times I've watched you try to get over him, it never works. Don't talk yourself out of this, just…stop fighting it and do the damn thing!"
"What am I supposed to say, Lanie?"
Lanie sighed, then looked her friend dead in they eye. "Kate Beckett, you're the woman who breaks the bad news to murder victims' families every day. You can handle telling Richard Castle you love him."
Not entirely happy with this chapter, so please review and let me know which parts are crap. Thank you!