Acquainted With the Night
by Topsy and chezchuckles
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
-Acquainted With the Night, by Robert Frost
Beckett hates being the last of her team to arrive at the 12th on a Monday morning. But the sleeping pill she took on Saturday made her absolutely worthless, and so she had to talk to Dr. Burke about it at his open session (he has Monday morning at seven cleared for her, right after her run, if she needs the extra time), and he came to the same conclusion: no more pills.
They don't work for her. She has dreamless comas, not dreamless sleep. She functions like a zombie the next day and she finds that her heart beats arrhythmically. The caffeine she ingests maybe doesn't help.
The psychiatrist Burke sent her to barely listened to her symptoms before writing out a hasty prescription. Beckett wasn't going to him, regardless of what her therapist might have said this morning. But getting it decided, and over with, that was good. It was a step in the right direction, towards being more.
So she's late to work, and her hair is back in a bun because it's still wet from her quick shower. She runs up the last flight of stairs (she's antsy after a session, needing a physical outlet for the things spinning in her head), clears the top step just as she sees Castle disappearing into the break room.
A little breathless, she realizes he was on the phone, that look of pained and forced cheerfulness on his face that she knows too well.
From a hospital room this past spring.
No. No, she's not going there today. She can't afford it. Not after that session.
Still, as she's about to pass the break room, she slows down, ears attuned to his voice. Listening.
"No, sweetie, it's fine. When Meredith wants to see you, it's best to go." He gives that strained laugh that fools no one, least of all Kate. Probably not Alexis either.
Beckett stops just out of sight, hovering. Yes, she's eavesdropping. But she needs coffee, and she can just waltz on in when he's done and have Castle make it for her. His coffees are always the best.
She's only waiting for that.
"You're right; you're right about your mom. Get on the plane, pumpkin. No. I can hear them calling your flight. Go."
A long pause.
"Love you too, Alexis."
Beckett waits just a beat, long enough to wipe the interest off her face, and rounds the doorway into the break room.
"Morning, Castle. Coffee?" she asks, giving him a pressed-lip smile and a raised eyebrow, glancing hopefully at the espresso maker.
It takes him a moment to look at her. "Ah. Yeah." He moves as if waking from a dream - moves like she did Saturday after that sleeping pill - and heads for the machine with a blank look in his eyes.
She hesitates, opens her mouth to say something-
"Oh. I already made you one," he half-laughs, then shrugs at her. It's not a real smile on his face; it's more of that strained and lifeless thing he had on his face earlier, talking to his daughter, but he's already pushing past her out of the break room.
Into the bull pen.
So Kate follows.
Her vest is too tight, pulling and tugging at the scar on her ribs. She wants to rub at it, slip her fingers underneath the Kevlar and dig until it doesn't hurt anymore. But she can't—her hands are full of steel and polymer, cupped in a grip around her weapon. The boys flank her, their own guns drawn, and she can feel Castle at her back—a ghostly presence; she doesn't have to hear him or see him to know he's there.
They sweep the alley, looking for the suspect who took off at a run when he saw them coming. They have him cornered—he's in there somewhere.
She's not nervous, not anymore. Her grip is firm, her palms are dry and tight around the gun. But the adrenaline is pumping through her veins, a drug coursing through her, licking at her heart and lungs.
There's thrill here, in the chase, and she knows she's addicted to it, that this is part of what she comes back for-
Suddenly there's a crash from the end of the alley, and their suspect comes tumbling out, rolling across the oily bricks. His face dips into a puddle of a not-so-clear liquid and he comes up sputtering. They advance on him quickly, surrounding him.
"Put your hands up, dirt bag!" Ryan shouts. Kate's lips twitch—he gets so into this sometimes.
The guy gets onto his knees, palms raised in the air and fear rolling off of him in waves. He's killed a man – a friend – over money. And he knows he's done. Over.
Esposito lowers his weapon, grabs his handcuffs, and walks behind the man. He yanks his wrists down, cuffs the guy, and then jerks him to his feet, already reading his Miranda rights.
Kate sighs, a release. The surge flowing through her blood begins to quiet, a murmur, and she turns to check on Castle. He smiles, but his lips are tight, his eyebrows tense. She frowns slightly, but looks back to the boys and watches as they lead their suspect to the mouth of the alley. She follows, motioning for Castle to join her.
He steps up beside her. "That was almost too easy," he remarks.
She tips her head, agrees. "It's a little less stressful when they don't have their own weapon aimed at us."
They step out of the alley, and Kate squints. The sun is bright and the winter air sharp. Their breaths blow out in clouds of steam. She's about to say something when a flash of sunlight reflects off a passing car window, and she finds herself suddenly slammed up against a brick wall, her partner's body heavy against hers. He's panting, his eyes squeezed shut tightly and his shoulders hunched—braced—for impact.
She glances over his shoulder and sees Ryan and Esposito paused and staring at them, their mouths dropped open.
"Castle," she murmurs, and realizes her hands are on his waist. She squeezes him, tries to push him back. "Castle," she says more firmly and shoves at him. "Get off of me."
He grunts at the force of her shove, and steps back, his eyes opening, wide and alarmed. He swallows hard, and then rubs a hand over his neck. "Uh. Sorry."
"What was that?" she says intently, stepping in close to him, her voice low so only he can hear. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the boys placing their guy into the back of the police cruiser that has pulled up on scene.
He won't look at her, refuses to meet her gaze. "Nothing. I just— It was just a mistake." He tries to smile, tries to brush it off, but she sees the panic still filtering through his blue eyes. "Flash of light just… caught me off guard. But it's not - it's ok." He turns the charm on, lets his smile take over his whole face. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
She shakes her head, at a loss for words. What is this?
"Okay, good. Sorry, Beckett. Didn't mean to rough you up. Anyway," he trails off, heads toward the police cruiser. Walks away.
She stares at him, watches him go, wonders what the hell that was all about. It's almost like… like the time she hit the ground during the sniper case - like a flashback. She frowns, and then shakes her head, shakes it off, and follows him to the car.
She can't deal with him right now.
She can barely deal with herself.
She doesn't do twitter or the other social network things; she just doesn't have the time for it. Castle likes to talk entirely too much though, so she checks every once in awhile, just to be sure. After the whole Eligible Bachelor article came out, Kate felt the need to keep tabs on the media content about him, which might also possibly be about her.
This is not an excuse, not something she's telling herself. At the beginning, she felt it was important to keep tabs on Castle's tendency to overshare. But honestly, for the last year or so, she's found little to plague her about his overly enthusiastic love for all things NYPD.
She checks now for some reason, a quiet Saturday night, in a hot bath with a glass of wine and a good book - not his - and her phone lying on the stand beside her tub. She's really just keeping herself from texting him and finding out what he's up to when she instead pulls up her bookmark of his twitter page.
Fifteen tweets in the space of six hours yesterday. The first at one in the morning, then 3:02, 3:18, 3:47. . .the last at five in the morning.
Troubled, she scrolls back through the timeline and sees a pattern of early morning tweets for the last few weeks. Not every night, certainly, and there are stretches of days where he apparently hasn't felt the need to tweet at three a.m. - hopefully this means he's getting some sleep.
He hasn't told her a thing about this, but it resonates in her - she knows it's not just Castle up late writing, not just the man being goofy because he doesn't have a real job. He *has* a real job, as her partner, and on some of these days, she knows for certain he was up at a crime scene with her as early as five or six o'clock.
According to his tweets, which won't load any earlier than September for some reason, he's been awake and at it on the days of some of their hardest, most exhausting cases: September 27th, October 13th, October 22nd, November 1st, December 6th. . .
Kate closes her eyes and tries to flip back through her memory, tries to recall with any photographic detail the way Castle might have looked during those cases: the day of the tiger and handcuffs, the morning of the double homicide in Central Park, the all-night surveillance tape viewing, the sniper.
But she can't recall. She doesn't specifically remember him, his face, his demeanor. What she remembers more from those times are the ways he tried to reach her, reach out to her, comfort her, the ways he was his usual, supportive self - her partner. She remembers him in connection with herself, and not anything at all about just him.
Nothing that is Castle alone. And how he might have been. Only herself. How is it that she can remember nothing of his own mood, his own state?
At that moment, a tweet comes in. Something about paper football and the Avengers, which makes no sense, but it's nearly midnight.
She gets out of the bath, keeping her phone close by, puts on pajamas, rinses out the wine glass and loads it in the dishwasher. The book lays abandoned in the bathroom; she keeps watching her phone for updates.
There's laundry, a cold case she took home last week, a couple bills to pay. Kate stays up entirely too late obsessively checking his twitter page, refreshing it on her phone. She falls asleep on her couch with another new tweet:
Desperate for a new coffee shop. Know one open all hours that wouldn't mind a friendly, writerly insomniac?
When Castle walks into the precinct a few mornings later, Kate studies his face, once again noticing the bruised pigmentation under his eyes, the slight reddish tint to his sclera, the frown lines etched around his mouth. Ever since her twitter discovery, she's been watching him, looking for the signs of his insomnia. She's ashamed to admit that they are obvious, now that she's paying attention.
She's a good detective—she knows this, but when it comes to her personal life, to the people around her, she's realizing more and more lately just how selfish she has become since her mother's murder. She's closed herself up in a dark room and locked the door, dead-bolted it, keeping everyone on the outside. Holed up in her own painful misery.
She wants to be more. She wants to release that deadbolt, open the door, let the light shine in. She wants to step out, and be a part of reality, of life.
And she's begun to suspect that the first step starts with him.
Castle walks to her desk, smiles weakly at her. "Morning, Beckett."
"Hey," she murmurs, and takes the coffee he holds out to her.
He slumps down in his chair, his shoulders hunched more than usual. She watches him as she takes that first delicious sip and waits.
But he doesn't speak, doesn't ask her what's new with the case, doesn't tell her how much he misses Alexis or ask for advice about Meredith. He just sits and stares with sightless eyes, his fingers limp around his own coffee cup.
She clears her throat. No response.
A frown crosses her face. "Castle."
"Huh?" He turns to look at her, as if noticing her for the first time.
"What're you daydreaming about?" she asks and smiles, trying to lighten the mood, trying to bring him out of the haze that seems to shroud him. This should be where he inserts some comment about his fantasies of her. Right?
"Oh." He shrugs. "Nothing. Just… spaced out there for a second."
He tries to return the smile, but she's not buying it. Not anymore.
"What's going on with you?"
"You're not sleeping."
"I'm not?" He grins at her.
"You look exhausted, Castle. And… you've been posting on twitter at all hours of the night."
"Keeping tabs on me, Detective?" he teases with a wiggle of his eyebrows. "Very interesting," he drawls out in a weird, mad-scientist type of voice, his fingers waggling together around his coffee cup as if he's just made a great discovery.
But it's not funny. "Castle."
He stops, his eyes tracing over her face. His brows draw together, tight, like someone is stitching them together with invisible thread. "It's no big deal."
She purses her lips but doesn't speak.
He lets out a sigh when he realizes she's not going to let this one go, and he looks away, his fingers tracing random patterns on his cup. "Just some writer's block. I get on the internet to kill time, or pretend like I'm researching, or whatever. And I just usually end up on twitter." He glances back at her. "It's nothing."
It feels like a punch in the gut. She sucks in a breath, sits up a little straighter. Her scars ache.
She doesn't think he's ever lied to her before, not point-blank, not right to her face. He's better at evasion, at using dramatics to change the subject or point her in another direction. But a flat-out lie… hurts.
Kate pushes back from her desk, rolls out with her chair. She stands, leaving her coffee there, and walks away.
Her lungs feel heavy, burdened, and she thinks she should turn around, sit back down. But she's not so sure she could find her poker face right now, doesn't think he would miss the hurt written between the lines. Usually she can push it down, hold it in, but now… it's taken her by surprise. The lie. The hurt.
She doesn't stop, just heads for the break room, wishing she could think of a better place to go. Somewhere he wouldn't find her. The roof, maybe, or an empty stairwell. But he's at her back now, right behind her, following her into the break room.
She walks to the opposite side of the room, looks through the window into the hallway, her back to him. She folds her arms around herself, tries to hold herself together. Why should his honesty be so important? Why should his. . .weakness mean so much to her? She somehow needs him to need her, as she seems to need him.
Her teeth clench. She doesn't turn.
"That was a lie."
She doesn't respond, just waits – trying with all her might to push it down, to lock it up and put it away so that when she turns to face him, he won't see any of it. She feels his gaze on her, like tiny pinpricks on the back of her neck, but she remains silent.
"You're right, I haven't been sleeping. I just—I can't sleep. When I lay down, most nights I just end up staring at the ceiling. It's like my brain is all scrambled, filled up with so much. Usually I could write it out, get it all down, but that's not working so well these days. The words aren't there anymore."
He sounds so bleak, so exhausted; it's that sound that has her turning around to face him.
"What's wrong?" she asks, her voice soft and low. Half-hating herself for being able to delve into *his* problems with him but not her own.
He shrugs, won't meet her gaze. "I don't know. Nothing. Everything."
She frowns—that's not an answer. "Castle, if you need someone to talk to you, you can…" She stops, hesitates. "You can talk to me."
He chuckles wryly and reaches up to rub a hand over the back of his neck. "That's not what you want."
Her cheeks heat up—not from anger or hurt this time, but from embarrassment. He's right. She isn't sure she can handle his issues on top of all of hers. She already feels weighted down, like she might sink into the dark depths of her own well of emotions.
"I've been—I've been seeing someone; a therapist. Maybe you can talk to him. I'll ask if he has any openings—"
She stops, stares at him. Her chest hurts, aches from this widening chasm that sits between them; a gaping black hole, threatening to suck them both down and never spit them back out.
He smiles; it's tremulous, wavering. "I'll be fine."
"Castle," she tries to argue, but her conviction is weak. She struggles to accept help herself; how can she force him to accept it?
"Really, Beckett, I'll be okay. It'll pass." Her weakness seems to bolster his strength. "Let's get back to work. You can fill me in on everything you've discovered since last night."
His smile widens, becomes real, and then he's turning, walking back into the bull pen, expecting her to follow.
She does, after a moment, but first she realizes two things.
One, he hasn't told her anything, hasn't revealed anything about why he's not sleeping.
Two, she's a coward.
Beckett didn't sleep so well herself last night, but she wakes up after a few hours determined to figure this out. She doesn't have a plan yet, which is irritating, but she knows something will come to her. She can do this. All it takes is one little step. (Or so her therapist keeps telling her, right?)
She's running late this morning because her mind wandered while she was in the shower, a waste of water and a waste of brain power; nothing came to her.
She takes the bike in to the 12th, tucks her helmet under her arm, rakes a hand through her hair to shake it out as she heads for the underground entrance. She's feeling good, despite not having a plan, because at least now she knows she's going to do this. Start paying attention; figure it out. Give some of herself to someone else.
Security check; she clears easily, badge on her hip. The uniformed guard knows her, gives her one of his tight-lipped, professional smiles. She can't remember his name; Castle would know. He probably knows the guard's whole life story.
Kate cocks her hip out as she waits on the elevator, checks her phone for messages. The financials were delivered, surveillance cameras struck out, Ryan has an idea. She smirks and pauses as the doors open, then heads into the bullpen.
Busy, active, soothing in its regular and everyday-ness. She saunters by in her heels, snags the hackey sack from Esposito's hand to interrupt their play.
"Ryan?" she says, gesturing with her phone as she gets to her desk.
"Yeah, okay, see I had this idea."
Kate pulls her bottom drawer out with the toe of her shoe - high-heeled boots today; she's stronger in these, taller. She feels a takedown coming this afternoon, a break in the case big enough to get their guy. Castle will say something just right to set them both off on a theory-building frenzy, and then it will all come together. She can feel it.
And after that? Who knows. Maybe they can go somewhere for dinner.
"What if the receipt isn't his? We've just been assuming. . ." Ryan starts, feeling out his idea as he goes.
Kate drops her helmet into her bottom drawer, stands just at her chair, ready to sink down into it, and darts her eyes to the elevator. Then to the precinct clock. Hm.
She sits down, back straight, and thumbs on her monitor. She adjusts her keyboard to log in, then realizes it's catching on something. A cup. Surprise flickers through her at the sight - her coffee.
Kate reaches for it hesitantly. It's still hot; she can feel it through the protective cardboard sleeve. So Castle is around here somewhere?
She shifts in her seat, slides her phone out. Nothing from him - no Where are you? I've been here for ages whiny text, no voicemail. She sips at her coffee, closes her eyes against the drone of Ryan's voice as he hesitatingly goes through his idea. Kate savors the taste, the flavor, the way it warms her whole body.
Where is he?
There's a cursory reply to her text: Brought you coffee. Have stuff to do outside the city. See you later.
It doesn't relieve her worry. She sees again the tense and hunted look on his face when he flattened her against the brick building, sees again the puffy cheeks, bruised eyes of his sleeplessness. He's worn more suit jackets lately, hiding the thickness of his shoulders and neck, his waist probably as well. Not sleeping, having flashbacks, some weight gain, eating irregularly - she can't remember the last time Castle actually finished a meal with them. Maybe after the bank and even then it was more wine than a full plate.
How much wine? How much scotch? That's an entirely different road; one she hasn't thought of. Would Castle - she has to believe he would know better. Has to.
She nurses that one coffee all day. His coffee.
When nothing in their case shakes loose, Beckett calls it a night and sends everyone home. She sits in the relative dimness of the empty bullpen and stares down the murder board. Filled up, lots of photos, timeline established, but most everyone in the clear, alibied out.
If Castle were here, there would be something. Maybe only a warm presence at her side, shoulder to shoulder, but that's better than nothing.
She can't resist any longer, pulls out her phone to call him. He hasn't texted her since that first one this morning; she won't admit to herself anything other than concern.
She does not need to hear his voice. She just wants to check on him.
But he doesn't answer.
When has he ever not answered her?
The next day, they finally catch a break in their case, even without Castle's help. The suspect is in a holding cell, they got their confession, and Gates has ordered them all to go home and get some rest. There was some underlying glee to her voice as she barked out the command, and Kate has a feeling it's because Castle's done a disappearing act. Gates hadn't asked where he was—probably hoped if she didn't ask, he would stay gone—but the boys did.
Kate didn't have an answer for them; still doesn't.
She hasn't called him since he didn't answer her last night, but she sent a couple of quick texts today, updating him on the case, letting him know they got the guy. But all she's gotten in return is radio silence.
She's worried, and more than a little pissed, and as she presses the button for the elevator in her building, she decides she's going to do something about it.
When she reaches her apartment, she unlocks the door and then steps inside, carefully locking back up. She dumps all of her stuff on the island in the kitchen, not even bothering to stop and pick up her keys when they slide to the floor in a noisy heap. She's determined, and she wants answers. Now.
She stalks into the living room, snagging her phone out of her pocket. She's never called Martha directly before, but she has her number 'in case of emergencies' (along with Alexis's.) She won't call Alexis—doesn't want to freak her out since she's in California and can't do anything about it—but she thinks Martha can handle her questions, her concern.
Kate paces the room as she presses the phone to her ear, wondering if Martha will answer. She likes the older woman, respects her, but doesn't know how diligent she is about her cell phone. Whereas Castle almost always answers his cell, and she always has hers an arms-length away, she's found that not everyone has the habit of being connected to their phone at all hours of the day. She hopes this time is an exception.
A sigh of relief escapes her lips when she hears Martha's cheerful voice on the other end.
"Kate, darling, it's so nice to hear from you! I trust everything is okay?"
Her heels catch on the rug, but she barely notices as she walks the floor like a caged lioness. "Oh, yes, Martha. Everything's fine."
"Oh, good, good. So, what's the word, kiddo?"
"Well, actually, I was wondering if you know where Castle is. He sort of did a vanishing act on me and I'm starting to get worried." She nibbles on her lower lip for a moment, and then adds—"He doesn't usually disappear in the middle of a case."
"He left in the middle of a case? That's odd. Richard doesn't usually like to leave a mystery unsolved."
"No, he doesn't." Kate replies, growing frustrated at Martha's roundabout way of answering. She doesn't sound concerned with the fact that Castle is gone, so it means she knows. "Do you know where he is?"
"Oh, darling, he decided to go to the Hamptons. Alexis is out of town, visiting her mother, and I've been busy with the acting school, and well—a new suitor who I've been spending a lot of evenings with. He said something about writing. He didn't mention this to you?"
"He's been saying that a lot lately," Kate mumbles to herself. Writing. Right. "And no, he didn't mention it to me. Doesn't he have cell service out there?"
"Well, yes, darling, of course. We spoke earlier this evening."
Hurt slips and slides through her chest cavity and settles in her stomach; a cauldron of bubbling disappointment. "Okay, Martha, thanks."
"You might be right to be worried." She pauses, as if debating the wisdom of her words. And then, in true Martha fashion, she barrels on. "Frankly, he's worried me lately, too."
"Why?" Kate whispers, afraid of the answer.
"He hasn't been the same since…" This time Martha's pause is awkward, and she backpedals. "For awhile now."
Since you were shot. The words go unspoken, but Kate hears them as clearly as if they'd slipped past Martha's lips.
Her heart thumps hard in her chest, and she rubs her hand over the round scar between her breasts, tries to soothe the ache. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, darling, you have nothing to be sorry about. But I will tell you this—and if Richard ever asks, I will deny it until my last breath—I think you are the perfect one to fix this."
Kate startles. "What?"
"I know that you've had a lot to deal with lately, and I know you're hurting. But so is Richard. And I think that maybe you could help each other."
Kate's throat dries up as panic slithers down her spine. "Martha—"
"Sometimes it's easier to heal when you have someone to help you through it, someone who knows." Martha stops and clears her throat. "Richard said he would probably be in the Hamptons for the rest of the week. He was planning to come home the night before Alexis so he would be there when she returns."
"Thank you, Martha." Kate's voice is low, but the words feel like sandpaper against her vocal chords. "Can you send me the address?"
"No problem, kiddo. Enjoy the rest of your evening."
When the click sounds in her ear, Kate lowers the phone slowly to her side, and stares unseeing into the empty spaces of her apartment. She drops onto the edge of her couch and leans forward, elbows on her knees, and buries her face in her hands.
Her insides are a gnarled mess, and she wants it all to go away.
She's been getting better—she has. She's been lighter lately, a little happier. She's been working on it, doing everything she can to haul herself out of the rubble of her bullet-scarred heart and start rebuilding. She's felt hope and had dreams, hazy images of a future that's once again possible.
Now it's shifting under her feet, sucking her down like quicksand. She needs to hole up for awhile and figure this out, battle it back.
But that's not fair, is it?
There's no life to be had if you're climbing up and your partner is sliding down.