Brick by Brick

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Chapter Eight

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"Rick, I..." Kate stilled. She what? She had nothing to say about the situation. She could explain that the whole thing was obviously before his time, but there wasn't much of a point to that. He looked to be in mourning. Good bye to his new character and next chance at the best seller list. Hello to disappointment. Kate was constantly a disappointment. She let people down. She took on every expectation and goal that someone had for her, only to never achieve them. What was wrong with her?

Rick's grip on the photo tightened. The corners poked into the flesh of his hands, but he ignored the pain. He swallowed, and it echoed through the silence between them. It was a rock cutting through the still waters, breaking the peace and signaling... something.

"When?" asked Rick. It struck Kate how the normally verbose writer had been reduced to one word questions. She stole his voice. She did ruin him.

"Three years ago. August 4th, 2005. She, um... I had just made detective when she-"

"Stop," Rick said. Kate did. She waited as he took another breath and released the picture. He shook his head. "You don't have to tell me any of this, Kate. I don't need to know." A silent I don't want to know followed in Kate's mind. She was such an idiot. She had to go. She just - she had to get away from him.

Kate reached quickly for her cup of coffee. She pulled at it as she went to slide out and coffee sloshed out of the lid and onto her skin. The scalding liquid sizzled and singed. She pushed through. She even made it completely out of the booth before Rick grabbed hold of her. The abrupt hold shifted her hand enough to spill more coffee on her. Kate winced, though it had as much to do with Rick as the burn. She remained rooted in the spot, but focused elsewhere. She was right all along. Why had she listened to everyone else? Lanie, her dad, Aimee - they didn't know Rick. Apparently, neither did Kate.

"Let me go," Kate said. Rick held on firmly. Kate tugged. Rick sighed.

"I didn't mean anything by that. There's a lot more under the surface than I expected. I'm wrapping my head around it," Rick admitted. It was a lot to take in. She could still hardly handle it and she lived her life. That didn't explain the tears or the abrupt cut off of her sentence. He added, "I'm not walking away. You shouldn't either."

Why shouldn't she? She was poison to everyone she came in contact with. She might help families that didn't know her, but the people who did know her got the short end of the stick. The painful end. She would be selfish to keep him around when she was only going to hurt him.

"I'm not the character you want," she said in way of explanation. Whatever they had needed to stop. She needed to go.

"You're exactly who I want, Kate. You're so unbelievably strong. It's just maddening for me to picture you broken."

Broken? "I'm not broken, Castle."

He frowned softly. He said, "First your mother and then..." His gaze fell back to the photo. Kate's followed it. Aimee and her mother had nothing in common. Aimee was this firecracker while Johanna was a more subdued sort of explosion, like a star burning out millions of light years away. It was true. Johanna's death was not the end, or even the fizzle, of her life. She extended out into the hearts of everyone that she had worked with. She still controlled Kate's thoughts and actions nine years later. And Aimee - oh. Oh. First her mother and then Aimee. Rick thought Aimee was dead? Where on Earth did he get that idea?

"Castle," she said. He looked up at Kate. "I'm not broken. I'm fine, so is Aimee. She's back at Lanie's apartment watching Dora the Explorer on DVD."

Rick's eyes widened once more. "Really?" He sounded so hopeful. So ready to believe and feel something other than the despair that must have been crushing him.

"Really," Kate affirmed.

Rick's sigh of relief blew through Kate until her brain landed on a new conclusion. She was an idiot, but so was Rick. They were both idiots with horrible conversation skills. They needed to work on talking about things in a way that didn't result in storming out and unnecessary explosions.

"So let me get this straight. You have a daughter, who is very much alive, and is not part of the reason you're so... shielded," he ventured. Kate bristled at the word. Shielded sounded like cold. She wasn't cold. Focus. There were more important matters to address.

Kate nodded. "Exactly. You're a quick learner, Castle." The sarcastic dig slipped out of her mouth without conscious thought. That was probably insensitive of her.

Rick defended, "I'm a writer, Kate. I have spent the last two days picturing all of the darkest ways that a toddler could fit into your story. I'm just glad that I was wrong."

His eyes were so true and honest. She glanced down and away only to find herself confronted with their hands. Somewhere along the line, his hand had left her wrist and found hers. Holy shit. How deep in was she? She chanced catching his gaze again. There was that same adoration and trust from before she had told him. He was still him. They were still them.

She squeezed softly on his hand. "Me too."

Rick grinned. For a moment, his eyes colored with something undefinable. Kate knew the look, having seen it before in others, but she shook the label away. It wasn't possible. They had only known each other for two weeks. It wasn't. Rick pulled lightly on Kate's hand to bring her back into the booth with him. She fell back into her spot and grinned.

Rick said, "Tell me about her."

He wanted to know. Okay, talking about Aimee was something that Kate could handle. Her smile broadened as she tried to figure out exactly what to tell him. There were so many things he would get a kick out of. Actually, the day that picture was taken would probably earn her a laugh or two. Kate leaned forward into the table. As she began the story, her features flittered between excitable and comfortable. Her nerves were finally gone.

#

Kate strolled up to the crime scene the next morning, feeling lighter than she had in quite a while. The light breeze that morning swept at her hair, tangling the edges into themselves. She scanned the construction site, the silence of it all almost eerie. There should be loud banging, drills whirring, and cat calls. Instead, there was a clump of men near Detective Ryan and an overly excited Richard Castle. Rick bounced on the balls of his feet, despite having been told numerous times to not look so happy at a crime scene.

She reached Rick silently. There was a moment where he faltered in his excitement just to take her in. She wondered if his mind went back to the night before. They had spent well over an hour swapping stories about their kids. It was... really great. Even the slight third degree from Lanie when Kate went to pick Aimee up could not shatter her good mood. Hell, she still had it even then, at barely five o'clock in the morning at a construction site.

Rick turned quickly and headed towards the group of men. Kate followed. The closer she got, the more she realized the men were looking up. She turned her gaze skyward and found herself getting a bit excited as well. Lanie squatted on rafters in the air, a body near her legs. A frozen body. A melting, frozen body.

Rick said, "Isn't it great? I'm just dripping with enthusiasm."

Kate rolled her eyes. She pushed through the crowd as she retorted, "Take you all morning to come up with that?"

"No. Five minutes. I'm nothing if not witty," Rick said.

"Then I suppose you're nothing," Kate concluded as the crowd finally gave way. A drip of water fell from their victim and landed on her boots. She frowned down at them. Dead body water did not go with leather. She took a step back and wound up colliding with Esposito.

Esposito huffed and rubbed inconspicuously at his eye. He seemed to be the opposite of Rick that morning. His shoulders sagged slightly with the weight of sleep and his reflexes were dulled enough where his only reaction was to sigh a bit heavier. He stuck his hands into his pockets and addressed her.

"Site's active, so there's no way this body was here last night. Lanie says it's frozen solid though, so beat's me where it came from," Esposito relayed. Kate looked from him up to where Lanie was with the body. The medical examiner wasn't looking at the body however. Her gaze was firmly placed on Rick, who seemed to be memorizing every detail of the construction site. Kate waited until Lanie looked at her to give the medical examiner a look to knock it off. Lanie replied with a look that clearly said that she was innocent. Yeah right.

"What do you know, Lanie?" Kate asked.

Lanie broke her survey of Rick to answer. "Female, covered in a plastic garment bag, and frozen, though not by exposure. I won't know much more until she finishes thawing out." Lanie's gaze wandered again at the end of her sentence.

Kate narrowed her eyes and spoke to Esposito without looking at him. "Espo, why don't you and Nancy Drew here go make sure we've got all of the information we need?"

Esposito glanced at Rick and then back to Kate. He asked, "With Castle?"

Kate nodded. "With Castle."

Esposito studied the other man. Rick stood still and offered a curious glance towards the male detective. After a moment, Esposito headed off without a word. Rick followed, no more than a beat behind. Once the two of them were out of earshot, Kate turned her attention back to Lanie. She grabbed onto the metal ladder leading to the rafters and climbed up enough to corner in the M.E.

Kate said, "Okay, out with it. Whatever it is that you're just dying to say, say it."

Lanie smirked. "I was right. That's all." Then she went back to the body. The victim of the week sent chills through Kate's spine for reasons other than the cold. The face stuck on her features was neither peaceful nor terrorizing. It was simply unsettling. Made her skin crawl a bit. Lanie didn't have the same problem. She was smug about it too. Lanie had the Southern stubbornness that meant that she figured herself to be right in every situation. Though, Kate wasn't even sure what the current situation was. If Lanie meant about Kate and Rick being together, then she was wrong. That thought spurred Kate into continuing the conversation.

She caved, "Right?"

Lanie burst up, as if the question released all of the anticipation and energy the silent twenty seconds had gathered. Lanie said, "About Writer Boy. He surprised you, didn't he? I knew he would. It won't be long now until those drinks turn into dinners and dinners into sleepovers and-"

"Lanie!" Kate barked. She glanced around a few times to make sure that no one was around. She turned back to her friend with a glare firmly on her face. Her voice slipped into the same one she used on Aimee when explaining something for the millionth time. "I told you that we're not doing anything."

"I don't see why not. He wants to. You want to. Why not?" Lanie asked, gloved hands in the air as if waiting for the answer to drop from the sky.

Kate lowered her voice and asked, "Why haven't you tried anything with Esposito?"

Lanie's gaze turned harsh in an instant. She scanned the area in her peripheral vision before grumbling, "That is not up for discussion, Kate."

Kate stood tall again. "And neither is Castle." It was a challenge, a warning. If Lanie said something, so would Kate. Honestly speaking, Kate probably would never say anything. Lanie didn't know that. Lanie couldn't be sure of that. Kate knew her friend would give in. She knew it.

"Fine," Lanie huffed.

Kate grinned. "Fine." She turned to go collect the boys. They didn't need to be on their mission anymore.

When Kate was half the way away, Lanie called out, "I give it two months! Max!"

Kate fought with the flush that tried to rise up in her cheeks. Castle glanced curiously, but Kate shook her head. That was not a conversation worth repeating. They had a case to solve.

"So, what'd you find out?"

#

"If you were in his position..." Rick tried. Kate sighed. They had been sitting outside of Ben Davidson's home for five minutes by that point. The entire way there Rick attempted to talk Kate out of arresting the old man. They watched as Ben set the table for his family. He moved without a care in the world. But he did have something to worry about. Ben had killed someone, and he had to pay, no matter how justified his actions might have been.

"I'd go to jail, Castle," said Kate resolutely. Her team would fight her on it probably, but she would do her time.

Rick argued, "Not if there were parents on the jury. Ben did it for the right reasons."

"'The road to hell is paved with good intentions,'" quoted Kate. The light in Rick's eyes dimmed slightly, but his face tightened in determination. He hated this. She did too. It hurt when it came down to the fact that no one was above the law. It hurt when good people, kind people, had to suffer, but it was necessary for order. It was fair.

"We could pretend we never put it together. We could-"

"No," Kate grounded out. Writing things off was how her mother wound up as just another file in the archives. She had to report what she knew. She was forever working towards the one goal that mattered out there. He didn't get that. Not yet. But he was starting to. "That's the difference between a novel and the real world, Castle. A cop doesn't get to decide how the story ends." Before she lost of her resolve, while she still had that bit of strength, Kate went for the door. His hand on her wrist stopped her. Was that his thing now? Stopping her every step of the way?

"Go to dinner with me," he said. What? Kate's face must have resembled a deer in headlights because Rick started backpedaling. He reasoned, "You've hardly eaten all day. I'm sure you're starving. I am. After we leave here, we can get something. It's just like our normal drinks only... solid."

Goodness, he was adorable. The way his eyes kept darting from hers to the door told her how badly he wanted her to stay with him. She almost wanted to say yes, but she had responsibilities even if she didn't act like she did.

"I can't. I have to go get Aimee and then she's got to go to bed and-"

"Bring her with. I'm sure she's hungry too. Come on, Kate. You've got to eat some time."

But that didn't mean then, with him and Aimee. He was talking about him meeting her daughter. Will didn't meet Aimee for months, and they were dating. No. She couldn't. Kate twisted her hand on the handle. She opened her mouth to say no. She really did, but then she saw Ben in the window. His two granddaughters bounced around him, climbing into their chairs for what looked like a really great dinner. Kate was going to ruin that the second she stepped out of the car. She would see his face fall and the girls might cry. She was destroying a family, even if it was the right thing to do. Maybe having something to look forward to after it all wouldn't be so bad. A meal out on the town with the two people who made her smile the most was definitely better than a grilled cheese in her apartment.

Kate nodded shortly. "Alright, Castle. But I'm warning you now. Aimee is... something." Something crazy that bounced off the walls, or hid inside of herself like Kate during a bad case. She was a toddler, which meant that she probably would not be all that pleasant the entire time. She was also extremely particular about her food choices. Did he understand what he was asking for here?

Rick shook away Kate's warning with a swipe of his head. "From you, I wouldn't expect anything less."

Okay. Kate nodded. "Remy's. I'll get Aimee and meet you there."

"It's a date."

#

"Mommy, hurry up! I'm hungry," said Aimee as she skipped through the door to the restaurant. Her long, brown hair flowed behind her like a twirling ribbon. Kate touched her own short hair with a slight sense of longing. Swallowing it down, Kate followed her daughter into Remy's.

Aimee stopped at the front counter and smiled widely at their usual waitress, an old woman by the name of Luciana. Luciana's hair had long since turned grey, giving her a sort of homey feeling without any added assistance. When she smiled, her teeth radiated a wisdom and joy that only came from a nice, long life. Luciana swiped her hands on the blue apron around her waist. She leaned over the counter towards Aimee.

"Hello there, Aimee. How are you today?" Luciana asked.

"I'm great!" Aimee said, "I had lots of fun today. Now, Mommy and I are getting dinner. Can we sit at our favorite table?"

"I don't see why not," Luciana said while pulling out two menus. Kate watched the encounter and debated with herself about mentioning the third menu. If she did, she might have to deal with the third degree from Luciana. If she didn't, she would still have to deal with the third degree and Rick would be present.

Kate said, "Actually, Lu, table for three."

Luciana paused, hand in the air. "Javier?"

Kate shook her head.

"Lanie?"

Kate again shook her head.

Luciana 's eyes narrowed. Her wrinkled hands came to her waist quickly as she took on a flustered motherly tone. "Kate Beckett, is there someone I should know about?"

Aimee giggled as Kate shrunk into herself slightly. Kate brushed at a strand of her hair. What was she going to say? No. It was a no. Rick wasn't a someone-someone. He was just a guy, who she was having dinner with at her favorite little restaurant.

"No," Kate said. "Just a guest for dinner who should be here any second, so let's head to the table." Kate's tone upturned at the end in a subtle plea for the end of this conversation.

Luciana stared at Kate, her disapproval clear on her face. Nevertheless, she added a third menu to the pile in her hand, grabbed a cup of crayons, and started for the Becketts' normal table. It was a booth close to a window that allowed for excellent people watching. Kate and Aimee normally created stories for the people walking around. They would decide where the people were going and why over burgers and fries. It was nice. Rick would probably love it.

Aimee slid into the booth first. The moment she was all the way over, she pulled out the ketchup and the salt shaker. On each one, there was a face drawn in Sharpie. The ketchup was happy, but the salt was sad. She turned them both to face the other side. Aimee used the two to show how she felt about whatever was going on during dinner. If she didn't like her food, she would have the salt facing the other side of the table. If she drew a nice picture, the ketchup smiled away. If she didn't feel anything one way or the other, both would look. It was an interesting system, but Kate had picked it up over the years.

Kate sat on the edge of the bench. Luciana put the menus down and Kate mumbled her thanks. Once Luciana was gone, Kate spun around the salt. Aimee went to change it back, and Kate stopped her.

"Best behavior tonight," Kate reminded her.

Aimee groaned. "I know. You told me ten billion times already."

It was sort of true. Kate had spent the entire ride telling Aimee not to make a mess and to use her manners and everything else. She was probably driving the girl mad.

"I'm sorry. I won't say it again," Kate said.

"Say what again?"

Kate and Aimee both turned to see Rick approaching the table. Kate looked from Rick to Aimee and back again. This was really happening. Oh goodness. Wait, he said something. She needed to say something back, something that didn't make her seem like a nervous lunatic that was silently hoping everything went well.

"How delicious the burgers are here," Kate said.

Aimee frowned confusedly. "That's not what you were saying."

Kate silenced her with a look and fought at the blush on her face. Ratted out by her own kid. How rude.

Rick chuckled and held out his hand for Aimee to shake. He introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Rick."

Aimee studied his hand and his face. Kate watched with interest as the girl seemed to debate with herself about what to do. Aimee stood up onto the bench and stuck her hand out as well. She took his hand in her smaller one, which made both adults smile a bit. Kate breathed a slight sigh in relief. Maybe this would dinner work out. Maybe they would have fun.

"I'm Aimee."

Rick grinned at her and snuck his eyes out to meet Kate's. "Pleased to meet you."


Author's Note: I know that this was posted originally a long time ago, but I reposted this last chapter so that I could tell you guys (and anyone who stumbles across it now) that I'm planning on continuing this further.

/ EDIT/ADDITIONAL AUTHOR'S NOTE - DECEMBER 2014 / I am revising the fic. None of my large changes have been made into this just yet, but they will be soon. Thank you to all who have committed to this project alongside me. Looking forward to posting again :)