The secret she revealed would forever change their worlds…one-shot. Alternate Universe, Season 4.
Resilience(noun): the dynamic process in which individuals exhibit positive behavioral adaption when they encounter significant adversity, emotional distress, trauma, and tragedy; the psychological rebirth from darkness
Dead of June: A Year and a Month after Kate's Shooting
"Are you ready?" the author asked her quietly, hoping to link them together with a bridge of hesitantly strung words. Because at the moment, that was all he truly had.
They stood there beating heart to beating heart, shaking breath to shaking breath, forehead to forehead, in an almost embrace. Castle's arms were planted on Kate's shoulders; her hands fell about his waist. He felt all kinds of suppressed passion yet sorrow at their slight touch. This physical contact was new to them. It started slowly every since her mother's case was brought to a final rest over the past year. Haunted like captives that forget what the light of day looks like, they rose from the ashes. Slowly.
"Castle, I'm not ready," she whispered in a reply.
The author's concerned eyes fell momentarily to the empty place at the podium where the detective was soon to occupy. This was her mother's scholarship night. This was her speech, her time to voice resilience. The triumph of love over grave. The knowledge that flesh can take flesh, but no living man or woman can take love by blood.
Love is resilience.
That past year, when Joanna's killer was brought to justice, the writer was there through the pain, through the hurt, the haunting screams of complete abandonment and fear. They trudged amongst the buried lies of others. But her mother died with no secrets, only a pursuit of justice. Joanna's final stand was against adversity, against injustice.
Long ago, covered in blood and stabbed in an alleyway, her mother's fallen corpse taught Kate resilience.
Now, Castle slowly let his hands come to Kate's face and his blue eyes met hers in the darkness of the backstage. His heart churned with the permitted touch. She was beautiful. But the boys were right at the precinct, he realized. She was thin. Fragile thin. Her facial features were darker and he noticed it in her eyes that were so close to his. But he breathed away his worry into a heavy sigh, and ran a hand slowly along her jaw line. He watched in wonder as her eyes fluttered close.
He let their foreheads touch.
"You are ready," he whispered back. "You already make her proud. She loved you. She always will. I…I love you."
Kate felt a deepened pang that felt very much like the bullet tearing the intricate tissues of her very heart.
But it was moments like these when Kate wondered what was holding her back from the author. She told herself it was her heart, all of this time of not being together, the impossibility of them working together and living together. Kate learned over this year after being shot that her biggest fear was not a bullet, or the plunging blade of a steel knife from a cold and vengeful murderer, but rather, she feared the prospect of losing him, her stronghold, more than anything else.
He would tell her he loved her. Her eyes would flutter closed. No words would escape her slightly parted lips.
But this time, Kate offered a sorrowful smile at his heartfelt words and, for a moment, she felt a fiery vertigo, the unexplainable urge to shatter the space between them. All this useless space that left both their hearts so empty.
When he cupped her jaw fully and angled her face, she felt this was finally that dwindling moment—
"Well, hello there you two."
Josh advanced to where Kate and Castle were fixed, motionlessly holding each other lock-eyed, backstage. Kate's back was turned to Josh, but she could almost see his figure in the reflection in Castle's widened eyes. The detective turned abruptly and moved to the man that was hers.
"Got off shift early," Josh said, trying to mentally dismiss what he saw, and handing Kate a bouquet of pale blue tulips. "This is wonderful, it really is, Kate. Got the invitation from your writer here. Said I should come, too. "
Castle honestly thought this was for the best. After all, Kate told Castle she finally broke the secret that her mother was murdered to Josh before the case could get into the press and her secrets would be spilled, regardless. The doctor learned a lot about Kate after she was shot. Castle watched like a distant ghost as they stayed together as a couple in a heart-wrenching confusion. But if Josh was the one, if Kate was happy, he reasoned he should be.
But, he was not.
There is a difference, a fine line between love and mindless wanting, or lust. The author knew this. He also knew this was love. It came with the pain from watching the one he loved give their own love to somebody else.
"That was…thoughtful to think of him, Castle."
Kate snapped the writer out of his thoughts, and he put on a false smile. All Castle noticed when he looked up was how Josh's hand came protectively around Kate's waist. He did not even notice the genuine smile from her.
Kate noticed Castle's void expression; empty, like he was residing somewhere deep in the shell of his body.
"Well, here I go," she said quietly, moving from Josh's hold. "I'm ready."
She looked back for one last glance at both men watching from backstage and approached the podium onstage to make her speech. Her presence onstage was stronger than her fear moments ago, yet inside she felt indescribably human and exposed. But standing up there she looked like a pillar of strength; not a victim of crime, a victor over its scarring wrath. A voice to the voiceless.
"Goddamn, what a woman," Josh sighed.
"Indeed," Castle agreed.
Only until he noticed Josh's stare, did the author meander awkwardly to find a place in the audience.
The detective's moving speech, her strength, left tears in the writer's eyes. And for mere words to have this effect, this was of the rarest occurrence in the writer's life.
His heart shattered at his realization: he was in love with that woman on stage, he knew that, he told her that. But it seemed as if she would never be in love with him. Time was evading them. The pain of her mother's case and what it did to them was proof of that.
They were two separate bodies, always in each other's orbits, never meeting in the space between.
After Kate's speech there was a wonderful, lively dinner in a lower-light setting. The author watched around him as people conversed lightly, laughed, and enjoyed each other's company. A slew of small children ran past the author and a little girl lost her balance and was about to fall at his feet until the author caught her.
"Whoa there," the author said, catching her shoulders. "You okay?"
"'Course life's okay!" The girl's small brown eyes caught the light flickering from the chandelier above them. "I'm goin' dancin.'"
The girl gave him a grin complete with the missing teeth, and tapped her feet on the floor, even forgetting the author was there for a moment. She swished the skirt of her small, princess-like dress. The author could almost see imaginary worlds streaming from her mind, sprouting around the little child. She was joy-filled, knew little disappointment, and not the failings of unrequited love.
To be a child again…
"By all means…dance," the author gestured with his hands to point to the hardwood floor of the dancing area and the little girl skipped away. Castle sunk back into the shadows.
The slow jazz song came drifting through the gathering, the singer's voice was passionate, yet as sullen as the slow dance music. These musicians were playing a series of Joanna Beckett's favorite songs. The author watched with a heavy, weighted pressure in his chest as he spotted them. Kate had on a deep blue dress that fit her figure beautifully, her face almost looked like it was smoldering in the low light. Josh's hand was intertwined with hers; the other was on her waist. His chin rested in the crook of her neck.
But Kate's eyes were fixed solely on one thing: the author in the distance.
Kate watched Castle across the room, and when he realized this was happening, his stomach took a pit fall. He turned his passion-clouded head away telling himself over and over: "It's all in your head."
"Kate?" Josh said quietly, into her ear. "Honey, what are you looking at?"
"Oh," she breathed sharply. "Nothing."
He gave her a slow dip and looked for himself.
"Poor guy." Josh said, raising his eyebrows slightly. "No wonder why you were looking. He's just…standing there…awkwardly…"
Kate said nothing, continuing to sway with the music.
"I think I should do something with that wallflower." Josh made sure Kate could see his expression. It was that fix between a smile and a laugh coming to his face that she knew all too well, but was beginning to forget.
"Aw, a slow dance with you two? How nice." But her humor was not in her voice. Her heart was pounding against her ribcage, longing to drift to other places.
"Naw," he shook his head, "You two." He raised his eyebrows, his grin falling, "You guys looked kind of cozy earlier…"
It was meant to be a joke, she could tell, but even through it she sensed undertone of spite, curiosity, or both.
"Josh," she pleaded. "We both know where this conversation goes. Let's just drop it tonight."
"Yes," he said, "But what am I supposed to think when you are gazing in each other's eyes and he has his hands on your—"
"Fine, Josh," she said, smoothly. "If it makes you happy, I think I will take up your eager suggestion."
All Josh could do was stare onward as she removed her body gently from his and walked away.
"Castle, may I have this dance?"
The author heard her voice drift into his ear and his punch and cookies almost flew from his mouth. He choked a bit and she began to slap his back a bit cynically.
"Wait, what?" he double backed.
"You heard that ridiculous line." But then, her lips betrayed a faint smile as she leaned to whisper in his ear, "But sometimes I'm a romantic like that."
"No, I just…" his eyes were startled, wide and blue as he put down his plate and punch as his eyes met hers. "That was unexpected…"
Her grin was priceless.
"Just look at those kids."
Martha sighed and leaned a bit into Jim from where they sat at a candlelit table. For a moment, Jim glanced down at her face for this physical contact, but then he shook his head and eased an arm around her. She sighed and continued to look onward at the dancing couples.
"That's a Kodak moment right there," Jim agreed.
They sat there and watched their children. It was one of those full life moments so inexplicably beautiful that there was nothing for them to say. Joanna's favorite song was slow, old fashioned, and heartbreaking. The author's arms held Kate close as they danced slowly. Her head fell into the crook of his neck. The writer's eyes were closed as if he were fighting to run from heartbreak that rest in his own arms, or kiss heartbreak's forehead.
Richard Castle kissed Kate Beckett's forehead.
"My heart hurts, kiddo," Martha whispered to Jim. "He loves her so much, you know."
"Hey, want to know a secret?" Jim sighed, holding her closer. "I have a sinking conspiracy their feelings are mutual."
"Your speech was beautiful."
Castle's voice was so timid, so hesitant, that Kate would have doubted that it was from him if his lips were not fluttering near her ear as they moved together. She would have doubted his lips if she had not felt them brush against her forehead moments ago.
When he did that she lost all thoughts, all of the baggage she carried in her heart. She did not think about Josh watching. But he saw limited glimpses of them. The couples dancing around them were a blackened blur, like a barrier of ghostly shadows in the darkness.
"Thank you," she said after time, her breath creating a heat on the base on his neck. Her hand fell from their intertwined ones, so both her hands came comfortably around his waist. "This was beautiful."
"Tonight was our team effort," he replied, his arms now enveloping her. He buried his head beside hers in her long hair. That moment, when he looked back, was as painful as beautiful. But that's life.
Only when Castle held Kate as they danced did he notice how small, how thin she truly was. Maybe it was a partly the physical toll of her mother's case. She was weaker lately. The boys on the force noted to the author that during a chase, she lost her breath early on and told them to go on without her. She had been coming to work later, sleeping in. Ryan and Esposito found flu medication and painkillers slammed in the recess of her desk drawer.
Castle now could hear the words, the rumors, her assuring him she was okay when he finally did ask. But Kate was never in his arms before like this. Now he knew.
"You okay?" she murmured, face leaving its place beside his.
He lied to her. "I'm fine."
They danced slowly, bodies together, for the rest of her mother's favorite song in silence.
Silence, because that sad lovers' song now made sense.
When it ended, their faces hummed painfully close. He could feel her breath quickening against his lips.
Then, she left him wordlessly.
Kate looked like a child. A child sleeping.
If it weren't for the discolored bruises forming on her knees and the side of her face at the violent fall, it would look like she just went to lie down on the floor and rest on her way out of the emptied event.
Josh was beside her on the ground, calling out, trying to get a response. Some people remaining at the event, including Castle's family and Kate's father, ran to their side.
Josh shook her. No response. The doctor swore and shouted for somebody to call an ambulance.
Josh proceeded to give Kate CPR. Castle watched powerlessly as the man claimed her lips, tried so desperately to restore life that was fading. The writer could not even call for help. He remained in a tormented suspension of disbelief.
He just danced with that woman that was so violently broken. That broken woman was not Kate Beckett. But even the deception of the author's mind could hold onto that for only so long.
His world fell violently, completely, around him. All in an instant.
He almost lost her to a bullet.
He would almost lose her again.
Kate Beckett always reasoned, even with seeing murder and the darkest of tragedies every day, her life would be long. Because as we all believe: why shouldn't it be?
Now, staring back at her on a statistic chart was a new belief. The sheet was black and white and filled with haunting words and numbers that stopped making sense to her. One day after her fall she was given this information in the hospital where she now lay in a bed, in a white-walled anesthetic room clutching that crumpled paper.
It was the time expectancy on her life.
"I can't do this."
He grabbed her hand and tears were fighting at the corners of his eyes. His voice, usually as smooth as paved driveways, like she once joked, was weakened to a pained rasp. "Yeah you can, baby." He brushed her sweaty hair from her forehead. "It's a long road, but you can do this. We can do this."
"Josh…" Kate held his hands that rest on her face. "I can't do this with you. Things with us have been rocky for a long time and I need—"
"Kate, I am here for you," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."
But in her heart, Kate knew it was finally time for him to go. Maybe this tragedy, this new life she would live was here to change her. Leaving him would be a wrong step, but in the right direction.
That day Kate freed Josh.
She could be her own Fate, cutting the invisible ties of human connection strand by pained strand.
After Kate was released from the hospital, Castle noticed she was even more weakened than before. But yet her personality was…completely free. And Castle was bewildered trying to figure it all out. The detective openly laughed at his jokes at the precinct. She did not hide her smile when he gave her coffee in the mornings. Her secret glances at him lingered. But yet Kate seemed as unattached to him as ever.
Castle wanted to ask about her condition but he hoped that Kate would eventually tell him. He remembered how he found the courage to come into her hospital room to see her with a bunch of roses. It was reminiscent of the time she was shot, but this time Kate accepted his presence warmly.
"I'm…really worried about you, Kate," he confessed quietly to her during his visit. "You're weak lately. I barely see you eat, or have an appetite. And, when I…I held you…you're so thin. Please, tell me what's wrong."
Her face froze then into a deathly stillness.
"Nothing," she said, her face hauntingly devoid of emotion. "Nothing…"
But on Kate's third day back to the precinct she closed the interrogation room and pulled the author inside.
"Castle, after work I need to drive you somewhere. There is a place we need to go together."
That comment was met by equally mystified looks from the writer, and the new female captain who happened to watch them from beyond the interrogation room's veil of glass.
Miles away from the city, in a field of tall grass, Kate's darkened eyes were concentrated on the expanse of heavens, the luster of glowing stars in the midnight blue sky. Castle watched with a pang in his heart as her eyes twinkled in the stars' light. The night enveloped her beautifully, mystically, romantically. The moon and stars were luminescent where they fell upon features of her face as if they deemed Kate their loving equal to rest among their company.
Kate turned to Castle and gave him that beautiful smile that stopped his very world.
His saddened eyes traced her, knowing in that moment, and always, she was beauty. Beauty that could not be captured, beauty that could never be his, beauty that would forever be free.
In that moment he wanted to whisper those words again he spoke to her in the cemetery over a year ago, those three words that were caged in the recess of his broken heart. But Kate beckoned to the author with a motion of her hand, leading him across the moonlit field. She carried a case in her hand that she gently refused his request to carry it for her.
"I took you here," she said, slightly out of breath, "because you have just got to see this."
Her glimmer of bliss was contagious. The author found himself smiling as she spoke eagerly for him to hurry up through the tall, wild grasses. When he was too slow, she laughed quietly and grabbed his hand. They stopped walking and settled in a patch of brush. Kate opened the mysterious suitcase and pulled from it a telescope.
"It was my mother's," she said, letting go of his hand to set it up. "We used to come here." She held her thumb up to the moon. Something—he could imagine—her mother was doing beyond that barrier of sky. "We were in this exact spot."
The author could say nothing. Words would not pass from his lips. And she didn't seem to mind.
"Sit next to me," she said.
He merely looked at her, perplexed. She grinned ever so slightly at his hesitancy.
She raised an eyebrow. "Full moon. Worried of me, are we?"
"No, I just—"
"Just sit," she pulled the back of his jacket and he fell beside her. "Look into the lens of the telescope to what it's focused on."
Castle was having a hard time with that, too. Kate had one hand pointing to the sky; the other was on his shoulder. Not to mention her body was resting beside his in the swaying wild grasses.
"Look into the viewfinder," she corrected. "Not at me."
"Well, you are making it very hard to," the author said, chuckling. Then he brought his face to the eyepiece.
"Oh, shut it," she quipped. "Now what do you see?"
"I dunno," he said, studying what was in the telescope. "It's kinda blurry. Very black. Makes me want to resort to my visuals before the telescope was put into my face—"
"How about now?"
She readjusted the focus lens and then Castle saw what she was talking about, perfectly. It was a cluster of light like he had never seen. It was alluring, beautiful, a color he could not describe. Wisps of what looked like pieces of shattered heavens weaved through the midnight blue patch of sky.
"Whoa, what is that?"
Castle removed his face from the viewfinder to look at Kate. She looked back at him with a grave expression that startled him, and then her face softened into what looked like a broken sadness.
"That's a dying star, Castle."
His voice was a whisper, a plea for her not to look at him like that and worry him, an answer to the question so dark it felt like poison running across his lips.
"Kate, what is this about?"
She did not look at him, but heaved an exasperated sigh. Her voice broke when she tried to speak. Words were wisps of breath, a jagged exhale of the lungs, but nothing that made sense.
Castle took Kate's hand.
"No…Kate," his voice was a softly broken, tormented plea, but when her face became shattered, he took her face into his hands.
"No." He whispered. His pain felt like that poison when it reached her heart and formed a thickened knot in her throat.
His hands held her face closer to his. Their foreheads were touching until he opened his eyes and stared into hers. After a moment of hesitation, he pulled her lips to his. Briefly. Faintly.
"Tell me," his lips touched her nose, "you," her eyelids, "are…okay."
Her voice was jagged after that. She was not herself. The trembling woman before him was not Detective Beckett, or Kate. She was a shadow, a ghost.
Her words came in fragments, each digging like shard of glass under pale skin.
"Castle…I have leukemia. That means… the prognosis was not good…it was caught late…"
The words did not process. They were mumbled chaos in his head.
She spoke again. Three words. Three wretched, irreversible words.
"I have cancer."
And with three words, his world was never the same.
The days seemed to stop flowing and became fragmented moments to the writer. Each moment was a treasure that he had taken as a gift that was never his in the first place.
Life became something with a humble beginning and a definite end.
The news of Kate's cancer spread early on and did not only shock the precinct, but Castle's family, and Kate's father as well. These people became a single unit. A family. A light to stifle out the darkest, the most unspeakable moments.
But even that would not prepare them for the darkness to come; death waiting impatiently like a man who had been wronged, for his final atonement.
November: The Burnout
Five months after diagnosis Kate was still alive, mainly because of his blood match that flowed through her veins. She was fighting against an enemy whose name he had researched, and memorized painfully: acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Because of Kate's ongoing battle, they met different challenges they were told would never come because as a nurse simply put to him: "She would not be alive to face them."
The writer and detective were having a war raged now. He felt this was not time to let life pass them by and be this merciless robber who had already stolen so much. He wanted to start a relationship if she was ready. However, all she could see in the window of the past, the present, and the future was one thing now: regret. Castle could see it in Kate's emptied eyes.
Very few people realize that cancer is also a darkness, a depression; an endless maze of sorrow in which you can lose yourself, and everybody you have come to love on the earth. Control slips from your grasp even through you cling to it with a sweated palm. You fall. Fate catches you. And then throws you away.
"This should not be now. You don't deserve this," she murmured. "This is wrong."
Castle pulled his forehead to hers and clasped his hands to her face. They both closed their eyes. He breathed in the air she exhaled.
"We've both made mistakes. But I just think that I've had five months where you are here with me, and nothing else matters This is right," he whispered. "Have you ever thought the darkness makes things clearer?"
"It doesn't," she whispered. "That's why I need you to leave."
He clasped his eyes shut more. "You know I can't do that."
He opened his eyes. She kept them closed.
Chemotherapy left Kate weak, a former shell of herself. Things began to vanish, all in succession. First it was her physical strength, then that lively glint of life in her eyes, and her ability to work at the precinct for extended periods of time, then to work at all.
Then her hair went.
The author shaved it at her request. She did not want to lose her hair to cancer. He bit back aching sobs, his teeth tearing into his lips as he watched the locks of brunette hair fall limply to the tile floor.
It was not so much the hair, but rather the person it stood for, fallen away.
The memory was shattered now as he ran his hands through her short hair. Kate outlived her desolate expiration date given to her by doctors. But she was still so weak. The author had to help her hop into her tub, in which he would be somewhat playfully scolded "not to look" until after she removed her towel and her body was completely submerged in the water and hidden under the refuge of bubbles.
But lately, she was getting stronger. Gradually. He saw it in the thickening muscles of her lovely back that would sometimes rise out from under the recess of water.
Now Castle was kneeling beside the tub looking at her, letting a washcloth cascade down the curve of her neck. Kate silently stared off, enveloped in her own faraway thoughts. But his words caged within his heart finally flew that night…
"You're so beautiful," the author whispered.
"Rick…" Kate's pained eyes met his for the briefest moment. She nodded her head no.
"No Kate, you are."
She let out a murmur for him to be quiet.
"Expiration dates on a life, days in the hospital, being shut out from the world here." She pleaded for his gaze, dark eyes meeting his. "This is all you know. I don't want this for you, for your family. Listen to me. I need you to leave before—"
"I won't listen. I can't," he replied. He let out a deep sigh before he brought his hands to her face as if laying down an age-old burden. "You know I love you."
Fighting back fear, Castle came closer to her face at the edge of her porcelain tub. She was frozen there until her eyes met his. He was about to say something else, but her hand fell over his mouth.
"No words," she breathed. "Let them rest now."
She closed her eyes.
After the slightest quiver of breath against his face, she brought her lips to his. His lips trembled against hers. He let out a murmur, a broken noise. Then there was a flash of passion, a ghost of themselves. She was quick, eager to deepen the kiss, digging so deep for who they were it ached in her chest. A small moan escaped her that made him go under. His hands fell down her shoulders, her back, and disappeared into the tub's water to fall down her body. A fiery pit seared in the depths of her abdomen at the impassioned touch. She pulled him in closer, needing it, to where he almost fell over and into the water.
In that moment, the darkness made what mattered, what should have been, clearer.
This was a beginning. Their beginning.
He kissed the line of her gunshot scar. Slowly. Reverently. Down her chest. He left a wake of mournful footsteps, crossing that scarred line, with his lips.
He loved her that night with a fire that had burned long before this darkness had obscured their lives. She breathed she loved him and clung to him during their slow and mournful lovemaking, as if their contact was broken, the illusion of ecstasy would fade into nothingness.
"I kind of like the short hair," Kate thought out loud two weeks later, sticking her head up good-humoredly in the air as she sat on her bed, their bed, striking a pose with one hand in the air, the other dangling jokingly low on her hip. She broke the pose and a slow smile came to Kate's face at Castle's silent observation. "Makes me look pixie-like, don't you think?"
She stood up on the bed that he helped her change the sheets on, took one of the clean sheets and held it in her hands, allowing it to flow dramatically in a trail as she let it fly through the air to make it unwrinkle and regain its shape so it wound fit over the bed.
Castle found himself silently watching her in reverie, in subdued awe.
"You kick cancer's ass beautifully," he finally replied.
"Thanks, Classy," she said, then chuckled as she put the last sheet on the bed, burying the author under it. She took a peek at his face before she covered his body with that sheet. "Glad I have a sidekick there to help."
"Whoa, whoa…" he said, his voice muffled by the blanket she now threw on top of the sheet. "The moment I get out of this you owe me more than the 'sidekick' title!"
"Make me take it back," she laughed, her voice leaving the room and filling the hallway. "Catch me if you can…Kitten."
"Very well then, Muse!" he bellowed back at her, laughing, still trapped in the imprisonment of her bed linens. "Just wait till I get out of here!"
He could hear her still laughing, rooms beyond.
Richard Castle kept this memory in his heart. Because in the end, they are all you own.
The family of support watched Castle and Kate grow nearly inseparable in this time. And although they said nothing about a relationship, had a very casual display of friend-only affection around people, or had limited displays of fiery affection when they felt others weren't looking, this family of support suspected something secret forming underneath the surface of their troubled hearts.
Meanwhile, Castle tried to keep the secrecy of their relationship and watched in pure frustration as this family wandered with them on this twisted road, of what sometimes seemed like, to hell.
When Kate's cancer came back with a vengeance, Kate's father was emotionally fading, watching the last family member he had slip so quietly away from him in the darkness of death that once claimed his wife.
The author described Kate with that solitary word to her father. After all, his memory said she was indestructible. She was a superhero-like woman who would not die to something as simple as the rapid division, mutation, and death of normal cells: cancer. Kate Beckett was a detective that kicked criminal ass in those signature heels. That was who she was. She would not die. She could not die. At least, not like this. That was not how her story would end, Castle told himself.
But with those violently unpredictable days, Castle was having a harder time reassuring himself of that.
Jim noticed this. He gave Castle an old camera that was once his.
This old camera captured Joanna when she was still alive. It captured a youthful Kate that was not plagued with cancer or solving homicides, but a little girl who was occupied with bedtime stories from her mother, park visits with her father, dress up games; and like most young girls, getting caught experimenting with her mother's dark lipstick.
This camera would now capture Kate again. If only, for a moment.
Beginning of December
"My hair will come back in blotchy tuffs. I might look like Alfalfa."
Kate chuckled weakly in the hospital bed at her voiced thought, the pain medications finally seeping in. The author grasped her hand tighter.
"Shh. Don't worry, Love…" he whispered, planting a slow kiss to her forehead.
Her tired eyes glimmered in the hospital lights. "So…since when is 'Love' the new pet name?"
"Since you won't slap me for it," he said quietly.
"Smart boy," she said, and let her hand drift hazily through his hair.
"I'd call you 'Love,'" she murmured weakly. "But I prefer Kitten."
He wanted to laugh, but he bit back tears instead. He could never lose this. He could never lose her. No amount of words, no expression in any language could speak what she meant to him, what she would always mean to him, no matter what the elusive future may bring.
"I'll be home for Christmas…"
Bing Crosby's lower and warm voice brought more than sentimental value this Christmas over Richard Castle's car radio. The song's lyrics brought the underlying message of promise that something greater than they could understand kept them together through this trial:
Love in the face of death.
"You cold?" the author asked her, pulling her closer into his arms, where they both were in his car. Kate murmured that she was fine now and moved wordlessly into the refuge of his arms. Castle opened his coat and wrapped it more around her than himself.
It was Christmas Eve and they found themselves trapped on the road in his car, snow obscuring the streets completely, changing their entire surroundings into unfamiliar drifts of the purest white.
"Hey Kate, it's Christmas," he said, his eyes flickering to the clock on his cell phone.
With a hand planted to his chest, Kate raised her head and he kissed her where her forehead met the brim of the scarf she wore.
"Now, I'll give you a real Christmas kiss," she chuckled softly.
And yes, did she lay it on him.
April: The Rain, New Life
After months out of the hospital with her last treatment, weeks since her last checkup, and almost a year since her diagnosis, Castle decided it was time.
Kate arrived to her emptied childhood home in confusion, getting his text that he needed her to come there. Now she was strong enough, physically and mentally, to drive herself places. She was growing independent. The doctors were amazed and hopeful with her recovery. But there was still a long and unlikely road to complete remission.
But there was hope. There was them. That was all they needed.
There was no need to keep their relationship a secret anymore. Not after Martha and Jim stumbled upon Kate and Castle kissing feverishly in the author's writing office at his New Year's Eve party. Martha was terribly sorry, she really was, but the support family's reaction at the news, the cheering and literal dancing for joy was worth her son's indignation.
Soon after February, Kate and Castle came back to the precinct. The new captain accepted their relationship she once forbid in the office. Regretfully, she wondered what she would do without that crime-fighting couple she had come to love so much.
"It's a miracle," some had said of Kate's drastically improving condition.
But in the darkness, when they made love, the author whispered to Kate that it was their resilience, their love. It was the family of individuals sent to them to lead them through the dark. When she kissed him back, he knew their souls were in accordance with that belief.
Miracles are brought by ordinary love that does extraordinary things.
Now on this rainy April day, Kate Beckett found herself drenched in rain, walking into her old family home which somebody had left its front door open. She was almost consumed by the memories like ghosts in her vision as she stepped beyond the threshold, into her childhood home.
She could see her mother as she walked down the hall, perched where the couch used to be, reading a book, beckoning for her to join her on the sofa. Kate could almost see her father, black-rimmed glasses falling a bit on his nose as he read something in the newspaper that amused him.
She breathed in the musty air surrounding her. This was the feeling of home. A reminder of her mother before she was taken. A glimpse of her father before his hair grayed, his face became worn with the fingerprint of alcoholism.
"Your father told me you wanted to come back to the old place, before they knocked it down. I thought we could do it together. That's why I called you here."
Kate flinched a bit when she heard the voice, but then she saw Castle sitting on a wooden chair that occupied a dusty and cobwebbed corner of the room. It was as if he were a memory of the fading house, too.
"Castle…how did you get in here?"
He grinned a bit and took out a jagged metal piece and a screwdriver from his coat pocket. "Talent. And friends in low places."
"Figures," she said, barely able to hide her slight smile.
Kate watched as Castle looked around the house; the fading wallpaper, holes in the wall where photographs were hung in frames, dangling wires, and the rackety pieces of furniture that weathered with the broken house. It looked to the author like Kate and her father moved out of the house as quickly as they could find a new place after Joanna was murdered.
"You want to save this house?" he offered quietly, watching her take in her childhood home. "I could buy it."
"No," she said, sitting down on a chair beside him and letting out a sigh. "This is like a shell, Castle. A ghost of home, but not the same thing. Home was…the people who were once here."
Kate glanced over at the author to find in his eyes an implacable emotion. But she took his hand, exchanged a soft smile, and it disappeared.
Castle could see ghosts of memories floating in her eyes.
As she led him through the rooms, he could only imagine what she was seeing as she passed through those places worn with time. He almost turned back as they went to the end of the hallway, but he forced himself on. This was it.
She opened the knob of the door at the end of the hallway.
"This was my father's photography darkroom," she said as a manner of introduction. Then she swung the door open.
At first, the light that poured into the room was not enough to see through the darkness beyond. Then she opened the door fully and light flooded in. Kate stared up in wonder as she saw something that should not have been there.
There were photographs close pinned to wires that ran horizontally above them. Lights were strung along with the wires to illuminate the images. It was like a tree of past memories.
She walked closer still in lost reverie, hesitantly to the photos to see her frozen in black and white with her mother at a park when she was a toddler. In another picture her dad was playing the guitar in the kitchen and Kate had an oversized serving spoon in her hands like a microphone, singing.
But then the pictures became more recent as she walked on.
Kate saw herself with shorter hair and Castle holding up a bottle of hair gel, giving her and himself a Mohawk. There were pictures of her trying to show him how to drive a motorcycle, the writer with a horrified expression on his face. There was a picnic the "Support Family" had together at the news for Kate being cancer-free for months. Then back to the older photos, there was one of Joanna and Jim dancing together, eyes clasped shut, faces humming so close together.
"These were not left here," she said faintly. "You did this. You restored those old photos I gave my dad to salvage…when my apartment blew up those years ago."
Kate could not look at him in this moment. Tears were burning, falling silently from the corner of her eyes.
He spent days putting together obliterated paper images of her past that were once fragmented, now whole. Images of her mother, the last parts of her she had on this earth, were now put back together. When he did not say a word, she turned around face him. But her eyes were lowered to find him kneeling on the ground with a ring in his hand.
The exchange was silent.
She nodded her head yes and kneeled next to him on the floor. He put the ring on her trembling hand with his trembling fingers. She pulled her body tight against his in an embrace. After all this heartache, after all this pain of cancer, this was the first time she shed tears since she was shot. He was crying, too.
He held her tighter.
Outside the home, the rain continued to fall.
The next day, that house became merely a memory, too.
Beginning of July
"Aw look, bro," Esposito gestured to Ryan. "Mom and dad are fighting…again."
Ryan sunk deeper into the sofa at Kate's apartment, next to rows of packed up boxes. He joined the observance of both Kate and Castle bickering over some final arrangements. Ryan sighed. "It's like an old married couple, man. I might just start tearing up here."
"Too bad," Esposito said. "You have to keep the emotion in. We packed away the tissues in some damned box hours ago."
"I'm not worried," Ryan said. "Your shoulder is always open for me to cry on, of course."
"Boys, can you cut out the Dr. Phil therapy session and help me out here," Lanie pointed to the stacks of boxes that contained some of Kate's limited items; wrapped furniture pieces, and some of the tasteful art that once adorned Kate's now emptied out apartment.
Lanie stared on at them incredulously as Ryan good-humoredly let his face fall into Esposito's shoulder. Ryan winked back at Lanie.
"Get your face off my fiancé otherwise I am so telling your wife, Ryan. You hear me?"
"But he's so cuddly—"
"Come on bro, let's just help," Esposito resolved. Then when Lanie turned her head he joked loud enough for her to hear, "We'll cuddle later."
Kate and Castle voices finally were subdued as they walked back into the living room.
"Okay," Kate said. "Due to a miracle and Castle's negotiations—"
"Basically I was right all a—"
"Shhh, Castle," she said, "But anyway, those last things will be packed up by the movers then taken to Castle's. The luggage is in Castle's car, so then, I guess, we're done here."
"No heavy lifting!" Ryan said. His eyes widened with glimmers of bliss.
"Dude," Esposito said, "You need to buff up anyway."
"Boys," Lanie raised an eyebrow. "Anyway hun, we'll leave you two to close up here. We'll see you soon when Castle has us over. He is having us over, right? We decided." She reached over to give Kate a hug and Castle a slap on the back and an eyebrow raise. "You be good to my girl."
Ryan and Esposito gave the pair hugs.
As they left, Castle turned to Kate and finally was able to relax a bit. He put his hands on her arms and then drew her face to his for a slow, deep kiss. She made a murmur of noise at the sensation that always rose through her body when their lips met.
"RYAN AND JAVIER JUAN FERNANDO ESPOSITO, GET YOUR ASSES AND PEEPING FACES OUTTA THAT DOORWAY!"
"Coming ma!" Ryan shouted back at Lanie, and he tugged Esposito along with him.
Castle and Kate broke just in time to see both their faces wavering in the doorway before they bolted.
"That was sufficiently awkward," Kate said, her eyebrow quirked upward as she stared at the ajar door with a slight smile on her face.
Castle shook his head and sighed. "It's like they have a built-in radar to those situations."
She laughed and nodded in agreement.
"Ah, so this is it, Castle," Kate sighed. "You got me. Hook, line, and sinker."
"If it's any consolation, you had me that way a long time ago." He moved closer to her, smiling. "And finally, you're moving in."
"Yeah, well," Kate said, hands on his waist now. Castle's hands ran through her shoulder-length hair. "We kind of have to do this before your mom steals my board for the…other Beckett."
"Oh, you saw my mom and your dad canoodling, too? Ahh…"
"Call it kissing," the detective said. "Canoodling sounds like something that's even more awkward to discuss."
With that the author lowered her into a dip and kissed her. It was one of those abrupt romantic moments that came out of nowhere, but made them both lose control in their passion.
"Rick…we…" he kissed her on the base of her neck "…need to go…" then fiercer "…now."
"We do," he said, and pressed a final kiss to her forehead.
He took her hand. "Ready?"
And they were ready.
For the first time in years he knew what was happening in his life was right. She was right.
Doctors told him that one day this might all be gone, an illusion. He might wake one day soon to an empty pillow beside him, a second coffee that would run cold, and a dugout grave to look down into and throw flowers over. But this was now. This was their love that death could never take away, that the prospect of death could never even touch.
Kate closed the door to her apartment one last time and pressed her forehead against the doorframe, closing her eyes. He was right beside her and held her body against his.
She was leaving more than an apartment that warm July day. She was leaving her old life behind. The memories of the first time they made love in her apartment, the gathering place for the support family for cancer updates, the place she would crash with the author when things became bleak, dark, and she needed a sanctuary from the world.
She was leaving behind this old life and jumping into the new.
"Resilience," he reminded her, holding her hand in his.
"Resilience," she whispered back.
Together, with hands clasped, they walked away from her apartment.
The past became a memory. The present became a gift. The future was an elusive promise.
And so it is for us all.
This story's central topic has been covered before, beautifully, masterfully. I never thought I would be writing this until the words came through experience and I felt necessary to do so in my own style, manner, and voice.
For anybody who has lost or is losing a loved one; physically, mentally, or through separation. There is hope. There is resilience. Also, love goes out to my cancer warriors; especially, my artist and photographer aunt, Theresa, who told me to never give up my dreams, my writing. This story is to her memory.
Story thoughts in reviews would mean the world to me.
Stay Beautiful & Classy. Also, thanks Andy.