This has been the fic that hasn't wanted to end. It started as a drabble after 4x12 and as the week has gone on, so has the story.
Thanks to JMHaughey, who convinced me to keep going with this and not change it :) And to eitoph, who is always the best beta. You ladies are wonderful :)
Disclaimer: Me? You think I own Castle? I am nowhere near smart enough to handle all that power.
Ships in the Night
It has become one of the most frequently used phrases in her vocabulary, a way to try and break the code of Castle.
His steps are slower, more cautious around her, his voice is always solemn, his lips pressed into a hard line and his eyes, those expressive eyes are hiding secrets that are far beyond his writing ways. And yet, though she asks and asks what is wrong, his facial features adapt each time, to the same steady expression, his voice holds that same tone.
Except that she can tell that it isn't nothing.
There is definitely something dreadfully wrong.
She always assumed that she was protecting him by closing him out.
She wasn't ready for the relationship she knew he wanted from her. Oh she wanted it too, but there was something inside of her that was slowing her down.
She had called it a wall, but really it was more like an ocean between herself and the rest of the world. An ocean she could swim in at will, but could never really cross. There were buoys along the way, markers and guides, helping her to get to her final destination, but sometimes a wave would hit her and she'd fall back, exhausted from trying to beat the steady lull of the water. Her scar would pull, a constant reminder of her weakness, and while she could see Castle sitting on that island in the distance, the pain would always be too much to bear.
And so she doesn't push past her resistance.
And now she can see that that move is costing her more than her own progress. She can see it in his very being, the magical twinkle in his eye falls flat, his body clearly exhausted from the wait.
Or perhaps it's because he is swimming in his very own ocean.
She always assumed that she was protecting him, but it seems she is just pulling him into her spiral.
It isn't difficult to follow him.
He drives on a route that is unfamiliar to her, but he is slow and she is far too fast.
She had convinced herself multiple times during the case that it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to maybe follow him home one night, surprise him with a movie and bottle of wine. She is trying so hard to be more, to be better. And though she doesn't think she is ready to swim across her entire ocean yet, she can feel herself wanting to reach out a little more, to maybe hint that she's getting there.
She has picked the wrong night though and she knows it as soon as she sees her partner enter his building with the Mayor in tow.
A laugh escapes her as she lets her head fall back against the car seat. Of course he'd have company tonight. She sighs and wonders if she could just walk in while the Mayor is sitting there. It'd be uncomfortable for a moment, sure, after all she had gone after him on an extremely serious allegation, but Castle would ease the tension and after no more than half an hour surely Weldon would excuse himself and then maybe...
She sighs again. Maybe what?
They can live happily ever after?
She drums her fingers against her steering wheel, staring ahead of her, wondering just how she has gotten to this point and how she can turn it all around.
It's hard to say how long she sits there, fighting an internal battle. Each time she starts her car to drive off, she convinces herself that the Mayor will only be another five minutes and so the ignition is flicked back to the off position, the only sounds around her are those of the steady thrum of New York City, lulling her into a relaxed state. An uninhibited state.
She knows it's nearing the hours of the night where if she is in close proximity to Castle her resolve will melt, but those nearing hours are also enough for her to not care. People are more honest the later it gets and honestly, she loves him.
She starts her engine again, this time certain that she needs to get away from this place, but a light catches her attention and she sees the Mayor's car pulling out from behind her and onto the quiet road. Her eyes wander to the loft, her brain willing her not to look, to just turn around and leave. But the light is still on and that's a chance she has to take.
Before her nimble fingers can turn the ignition off again, she notices Castle moving towards his car. She smiles, thinking he's probably on his way to get some Ben & Jerry's from the nearest convenience store to satisfy his inner child and really, that's when she begins following him.
Because, well, she could use some Ben & Jerry's too.
At least that's what she'll tell him.
Except that he turns left instead of right and then takes the next left too.
Almost like he's trying to shake her.
So she pumps the brakes, easing back, and switches her lights off, confident that they're the only two cars on the road in this part of town. He takes another few swift turns before slowing at a parking garage on the left hand side.
His shoulders are hunched in a way she's gotten used to over the past few months and his step has that slight hitch in it. The one he gets when he's approaching something wrong, something forbidden. He had that hitch in his step the day he told her about her mother's case.
Worried and completely curious, she steps out of her car and traces his steps before hiding in the shadows of a pillar.
She hears him then, speaking to a voice she cannot place. She hears the tension, she hears the anger and somewhere buried in his tone, she hears desperation. A want, a need for her to be safe.
And as much as she's sure she should be mad at him for keeping secrets like this from her, she can't help but feel her heart aching for him.
He hasn't asked her about what she remembers of her shooting in a while. And with her new knowledge of his night time prowls and his personal mission to protect her, she can't wait for him to breach the subject. Cannot wait to finally have a chance to fire back at him. She's knows it's childish, having something to talk about with him, but waiting until he provokes it. She knows it's cowardly. But she also knows that she can't stand on her own two feet without him (as much as she hates to admit that) and so she needs a reason to yell at him, she can't just bring it up without reason. Can she?
She needn't worry about it really.
Because in true form, they stubbornly skirt around the topics they really need to address and instead discuss everything but. His words are tainted though, lies and deception are part of who he is now and it hurts her that he hasn't included her in his new life. As though he's Clark Kent, taking on the responsibilities of the world and not allowed to tell a soul.
Except that he is allowed.
If he wanted to.
He's not really like Clark Kent at all.
He sits in his chair, she sits in hers. Their eyes meet for a second and she sees pain in his depths. Once more, she tells herself, she'll ask him just once more, "What's wrong?"
His face adapts once again and she braces herself for the nothing that is sure to come. But it doesn't.
"Kate, you know what is wrong."
In the second it takes for her to frown, he has turned around and walked from the bullpen.
She doesn't see him for three days.
The ring of his cell wakes him up far too early on Thursday morning, he's not even sure it's late enough to be considered morning. Middle of the night might sum it up better.
"Text me the address, I'll bring the coffee," he slurs.
She smiles at his sleep addled voice, "Not calling for a case, Castle," she pauses, "I'm at your front door."
What she loves is that she doesn't even need to pose a question and he's agreeing to let her in.
His door opens to find Beckett in leggings and a t-shirt. On a cold February night. He frowns and ushers her into his loft, pulling a blanket from his couch and wrapping it around her without asking whether she needs it or not.
She smiles gratefully.
And that's something.
"We need to talk."
His hair is messy, his confusion evident, but he recognises those words, "You can't break up with me, we're not even together."
She doesn't acknowledge his concerns, instead continuing on her original train of thought, knowing that if she doesn't speak now, she won't be able to, "Castle, there are...things going on between us. We can't keep ignoring them."
Assured that she isn't breaking up with him, he sinks into his couch and pats the spot next to him. "It seems like the money you're paying that therapist is well worth it," he says, commenting on her obvious new openness.
She sits by him, even though the shock of his last sentence has her wanting to throw something at him, "Things like that, Castle. I never told you about Dr Burke and yet you know about him. Things like you having late night meetings in parking garages and not telling me about them."
She's not sure, but she thinks she hears his gasp at her revelation, "How did you...?"
Pulling her knees to her chest, she allows her eyes to meet his, "Castle, please tell me what is wrong?"
And she thinks he is really going to answer, his face holds a guarded look, but it's different somehow this time, it's reluctant to lie, "Please Kate. I have...there are secrets that need to be kept sometimes. You said that. I don't plan on keeping them forever, but just until...just for now."
She carefully analyses his features, witnesses the sad defeated rise and fall of his shoulders with each laboured breath and she sees exactly what he is asking for, "You need time."
He looks up and sees the understanding in her eyes, "Yeah."
"And for reasons outside my knowledge, I can't look into my mother's case."
He nods again, a look of guilt passing over his face before it is masked. He answers even though she hasn't asked a question, "For now, yes."
"I should be furious at you."
"You should." He braces himself.
"But I find myself blindly trusting you."
His eyes pop open in shock. He doesn't say anything to that, afraid that she might change her mind if he ruins the silence with his words. Instead he leans into the small distance between them and wraps his arms around her, completely envelopes her curled up form in his.
If she said she was shocked by his move it would be a lie. She had wanted it the second he had wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. She had hoped for his warm body surrounding hers.
He runs his hands up and down her back, creating patterns against the fabric of the blanket, imprinting on her skin, leaving burning lines of need where his fingers once were.
She whispers, "Castle."
His hands continue their movements, pushing the blanket from her shoulders, warming her body through with just his touch.
She turns her head slightly, whispering into the shell of his ear, soft and calm, "The money I am giving Dr Burke is definitely paying off."
His right hand comes to the back of her neck where he cradles her head as he pulls back, looking her in the eye. He doesn't speak, just holds her, setting her skin on fire with his now still touch, making her heart skip a beat with his powerful gaze. He's questioning her, she realises. He's watching her to be sure that she is sure.
And then his lips are pressed to hers, gentle yet firm, warm and alive and he tastes like Castle. Not the shell of a man she has been acquainted with lately, but Castle, the man she loves. He runs his fingers through her hair and she pulls him closer to her, wrapping her legs around his waist, gasping at the arousal coursing through her as their hips collide. He lifts her easily as he moves to stand, his lips working along her jaw line, kissing a path that feels like home already.
It takes her a moment to realise that he's carrying her upstairs to the familiar guest room and not to his bedroom, she doesn't question it at first, but as he carefully lays her on the bed and pulls away with a kiss to her forehead, she finds herself whimpering at the lost contact and her ability to appear as though she is well put together has disappeared, "Where are you going?"
He leans down once more to kiss her lightly, she tries to pull him to the bed, but he is stronger and he stands again, "I don't want to sound like a cliché, but there shouldn't be secrets between us when this," he gestures between them, "starts."
She reluctantly nods, amazed by his strength and intrigued by her own need to have him near her. He's right though. She's not angry at him today, but she knows that she might be when he opens up to her completely. And he doesn't know her secrets yet. Or perhaps he does but is allowing her the time she needs.
Either way, he is right.
"It's cold out and you're dressed for bed, so stay?" He asks as he takes backwards steps towards the door, putting distance between them.
She nods again, a little overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness, "On one condition."
He stands by the door, his body screaming at him for not following her into bed, "Anything."
He watches her long limbs climb from the bed and walk their way over to him, her hands run up his chest and around his neck, pulling him to her once more, the heat between them tangible, "When our secrets are out in the open, you show me that giant bed I know you're hiding from me."
She leans back, teasing him, but he grabs her hand and pulls her swiftly back to him, kissing her once more for the night, searing hot and passionately gentle, his tongue getting its last taste of her for the night and savouring it, "Sleep well, Kate."
He smiles and she smiles as the door closes between them, knowing that a door is really just a way to get through a wall.
Their secrets will rest tonight and be burning again tomorrow, alive in the morning light. But there's a promise for their future also burning, also alive. So she'll keep on asking him what is wrong, and he'll keep on telling her that it's nothing. He'll kiss her again, and she will believe him. And that will be enough.