A/N: So this chapter is actually why I wrote this in the first place. As much as I loved the swing scene, I felt like it was too pat, that the answers were just too easy, so I wanted to redo it and add just a little bit that I think makes it deeper and more realistic. Anyway, here it is.
As always, I don't own Castle (or the song), and I definitely don't own the lines of dialog I have appropriated but I just can't seem to help myself from playing around with them.
Also, a little note to all those who favorited or alerted this story, while I'm flattered, I want to remind you that reviews are like chocolate, not necessary, but damn tasty nonetheless.
I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming
(rough seas, they carry me wherever I go)
Castle was signing books by rote when he heard her voice. He almost didn't look up, sure that the sound was a product of his imagination brought on by the bone deep longing that he carried with him everywhere. But he did look and there she was, thin and still a little drawn, wearing the most uncertain expression he had ever seen on her face.
His heart wanted to give in but his head remembered all of the past months without a word and he struggled to lock his feelings away behind a mask. Not that there was anything he could do right this moment, stuck behind his table with a long line of fans waiting with their books in hand. Perhaps she had known that. Perhaps she was just as afraid as he was and so had chosen this very public place for their reunion.
The next hour passed at a slow crawl as he scribbled his name across cover after cover, a pleasant smile on his face while his stomach churned in his gut. In the first few days after Beckett had dismissed him so summarily from her hospital room, he had been sure she would call anytime and had occupied himself with thoughts of how he would help her through her recovery. He had told himself that she might not remember his declaration to her but even if he couldn't bring himself to tell her his feelings he would have plenty of time to show her while she recuperated. Then as the days stretched into weeks, he excused her silence, unsurprised that Beckett might behave like a wounded animal, crawling away to hide while she licked her wounds, emerging only when she felt strong enough to face the world on her own terms. But then, the weeks turned into months and he had to face the fact that maybe she wasn't coming back, at least not back to him.
There was nothing he could do. He had tried, she had turned away and if he really loved her he needed to respect that decision. If Josh was what she wanted then he needed to leave them alone, not only for their sake but for his own. He thought he had come to terms with that but the very sight of her had torn his heart open all over again.
It was close to an hour before he was finally finished with the book signing. He had not seen Kate again since she showed up in line among his fans and he wondered if she had left as suddenly as she had appeared. Then he left the shop and there she was, waiting in the street, his book held up against her chest like a shield.
Suddenly it was just too much. He could see the future all too clearly. Him following behind her as they settled back into their routine, his hopes rising as their work brought them together, only to be dashed each time Josh reappeared. He could not stay in the wasteland of his unrequited love. It would destroy him in the end so he set an unfeeling mask on his face and walked right past her. It was the hardest thing he had ever done.
"Castle, wait," she called to him before he could make good his escape.
His pain turned to anger. "I did. Three months. You never called."
"Look, I know you're angry," she pleaded.
He turned to face her. "Damn right, I'm angry." Then all the hurt and worry of the past months started to spill out. "I watched you die in that ambulance. Did you know that? Do you know what it's like, watching the life drain out of someone you ..." He caught himself just before he could say too much. "Someone you care about," he said instead.
"I told you, I needed some time," she explained.
"You said a few days."
"Well, I needed more."
"Well, you should have said that," he told her before he gathered his outrage around himself and headed back down the street.
But Kate was nothing if not tenacious and she followed behind him, trying to explain that she had needed some space to work things through for herself. It was that last bit that got to him. For herself. Right.
"Did Josh help you with that?" he asked her bitterly.
Then she said the one thing that could stop him in his tracks. "We broke up."
He watched in shock as she turned and walked away from him, her hurt written on her face for anyone to see. What could he do except for follow her?
They ended up seated, side by side, on two swings in the park across the street. The conversation did not come easily, the past three months and all the things unsaid between them looming like rocks guarding the harbor of their friendship. Finally he couldn't take it any longer.
"So why'd you break up?" he asked.
She didn't answer right away, instead taking a moment to carefully choose her words. "I really, really liked him ... but that wasn't enough. After my mother was killed, something inside me changed. It's like I built up this wall inside. I don't know, I guess it's just that I didn't want to hurt like that again."
When he didn't answer she went on, so slowly it seemed like she was dredging the words up from the very depths of herself. "I know I'm not going to be able to be the kind of person I want to be. I know I'm not gonna ..." she trailed off as he looked over at her, his heart leaping in his chest, but just like him, she chose to sail around the truth. She took a deep breath. "I'm not going to be able to have the kind of relationship I want until that wall comes down. And it's not gonna happen until I put this thing to rest."
He wanted to let it go at that. Wanted to chart this easy course back to the status quo with nothing more on the horizon than the tiny olive branch of hope she was holding out but he couldn't. It wasn't that simple.
"So that's it," he said. "We solve your case and there's your happy ending waiting for you in the distance? Do you even know what happy looks like anymore?" he pushed her.
"I don't know, Castle. I don't know but I ... no, we," she corrected herself, her eyes locked with his. "We have to start somewhere."
And as he looked at her he could see it, little more than a mirage shimmering in the distance, a vision of them together. A new world that was no more than a distant shoreline right now, but out there beckoning to him in the distance and he reached for it.
"Well then I guess we'll just have to find these guys and take him down," he told her.
His words were rewarded with a smile so filled with relief he could have drowned in it. They were so closely tied that no more words were needed. Sure, there were many things left unsaid, and he couldn't have told you whether he was the rescuer or the castaway, but the past few years had given him plenty of experience in these troubled waters and he knew that for now he would go on swimming. No, he thought. They. They would go on swimming.