I've decided to start a new story with a chapter from an old one.
Chapter one was written for the "Shotgun!" series, though I made some changes to stay close to canon, and I'll keep the story going with new material after this. It goes along with Rick's claim that his partner owes him about a hundred coffees.
Castle and Beckett sat in the dark car, watching the door of the empty building. Waiting. Ryan and Esposito were staking out the other location.
Kate couldn't help but be amused by how excited Castle was to go on the stakeout - more excited than usual. He'd been melancholy all day and didn't want to talk about why. She had wanted to press him, but things hadn't been the same as they used to be since she came back to work. There was a distance between them. She hated it.
So when Gates approved the two stake-outs, he'd jumped up- thrilled- and said he'd be back soon. He came back a little over an hour later with night-vision goggles, a sack of candy, a smaller bag of other snacks, and a small cooler with frozen espresso shots.
Kate had scoffed. Coffee wasn't meant to be eaten like a popsicle. But he insisted it was better than lukewarm stale coffee that had been sitting for hours in a stakeout. Plus, they were made with dulce du leche, so she would love them. She was still doubtful. But she decided to try one anyway, just because of the gleam in his eye.
He wiggled in the passenger seat, playing with the night-vision goggles, pretending they had other powers and describing the things he could see with them that were invisible to the naked eye. She smiled. She had missed this.
Ryan's voice came over the radio. "Suspect in sight." A few minutes later, "That was easy. We got him. Taking him in."
Castle's face fell. He looked like someone took his ice cream cone away. And it was still pretty early.
"What's wrong, Castle? We're supposed to get the guy. And it's a good thing for it to be easy."
His shoulders sagged. He shook his head. "It's not that. It's just…" He sighed. "I just… don't really want to go home."
Kate got worried. "Why not? What's going on?"
He sighed. "I took Alexis to the airport a few days ago. She went with friends to 'check out the campus.' She's picking out an apartment while she's there. She'll be moving in a month. And… she didn't need me to go with her this time."
"Oh." Kate placed her hand on top of his.
"And Mother's school has finished construction. She built a studio apartment in the back. She moved out last weekend. So the loft is… it's too empty. I don't want to be there."
I'd rather be anywhere but there. Especially with you. But you'd rather be alone than be with me.
She could tell he was thinking more than he said. He looked broken. "Rick, why didn't you tell me?"
"It's not like we've been talking all that much lately. Can we just go somewhere for a while?" They had been talking more, but still not about anything important.
"Sure. Where?" She was worried about him.
"I don't care." He gazed out the window, but didn't seem to actually be looking at anything.
She cranked the car and started driving. She didn't have a destination in mind, but thought that somewhere quiet and secluded would be good. She pulled into a park that had closed at sunset, taking the maintenance road to a spot that had a nice view. She rolled down the windows to let the cool breeze blow through and killed the engine.
She again placed her hand on top of his. He closed his thumb around her fingertips.
They sat in silence for a while.
"Tell me something. Something that'll make me feel better. Please." He tried his best to not sound so pathetic and stared through the windshield at the rising moon.
All he expected from her was a joke or funny story, something to distract him. She thought he was fishing for compliments.
"It's sweet how much you love your family. They're lucky to have you."
Distractions, Kate. That'll make me feel worse. He rolled up his window and leaned his head against it.
"It was really shocking, and cute, when I arrested you and they came to bail you out. I never expected you to be such a family guy. It's… endearing."
She sounded like she was just trying to stroke his ego.
"And how quick you are with a joke that lifts my spirits or takes me down a notch. You always seem to know just what I need to hear."
Still not really helping.
Her voice got softer. "And I know I can always count on you to have my back. Even if I tell you not to. And I trust you, with everything."
She sounded different. Honest. He turned to look at her as she spoke. "You're so kind. And that brain of yours… you truly amaze me sometimes. There have been so many times that you've been my rock. And I don't think you ever even realized it."
She was relaxed, one shoulder against her backrest, facing him. Leaning towards him like she was sharing a secret. She lifted her hand like she was going to touch his cheek, but lowered it to lightly rest on his chest.
"You're not alone, Rick. You're not."
She leaned in and kissed him, lightly. He gently palmed the back of her head, returning the kiss. Then he pulled away. "Don't." His voice was forced.
She expected the kiss to make him smile; instead she saw frustration and hurt.
"Just don't. You don't mean it. And I don't need your pity." He turned and rested his forehead back against his window.
Lanie was right. She had pushed him away too many times.
"Just take me home, Kate. I'd rather be there."
It suddenly felt very cold in her car. She rolled up her window and turned the ignition. Dammit.
After a minute, he realized the car hadn't moved. He turned just enough to be able to see her in his peripheral vision. She was squeezing the steering wheel tightly. Her head was hanging, shaking no. She was silently berating herself.
His sigh brought her attention back to him. She cut the engine again and laid her hand on his arm.
"It wasn't pity." It came as almost a whisper.
He turned only enough that she could tell he was listening. "I meant it. All of it."
She tugged his arm to get him to face her. "I haven't been trying to hurt you. I just needed time. Everything's so… broken. But I can't lose you, Rick. I need you too much."
He looked like he wasn't sure if he believed her.
He studied her. He knew her tells. Maybe she was being honest.
She reached again, and the feel of her touch on the back of his neck made his chest tighten. She ran her fingers in the edge of his hair.
"I meant it, Rick. I mean it." She kissed him again.
He let her. He let himself just be kissed by her. Soulfully, longingly. Until he believed her.
His returned kiss was full of yearning and hunger.
He knew he wasn't alone anymore.
Please review. Getting reviews is addictive. Addictive like sipping hot coffee in my jammies on 'black Friday', knowing that my Christmas shopping was finished weeks ago so I can enjoy a stress-free Christmas season. Shopping is not the reason for the season! Man oh man, as I look at news feeds about the insane shoppers, I'm so glad to be at home!