She considers fleeing the entire trip back to his loft.
She wonders how long he's known, if he's always known, if he could tell from the look on her face in the hospital that she was lying. Or maybe she'd given herself away during her bout with PTSD.
No. He's always known.
She sighs, wordless next to him as they sit in traffic. She props her elbow on the lip of the car door, running her fingers over her lips in thought.
He knows her too well, which startles her more than it should. She'd been ready to walk away, to give it all up, when he called her on her bullshit. Scratch that. Called her on her bullshit and re-confessed his love in the same breath.
She should steel herself for a fight, knows he won't give them up without clawing at everything she's built between them. But damn it if she doesn't want him to succeed.
"Are you hungry?" he asks, snapping her out of her thoughts. She turns to him, shakes her head. She didn't have much to drink, but the alcohol sloshes uncomfortably in her stomach.
"We can order something if you are."
"No, I'm fine," she says quietly, turning back to her spot on the window. She hears him sigh. She closes her eyes against the sound, pressing her forehead against the cool window.
She's still quiet when she follows him into the loft. He can't decide whether it's good or bad. He thinks he should be grateful that she isn't yelling at him, but the near defeat in her eyes makes him anxious. He'll do anything to make sure he never sees that look again.
He tosses his coat across the back of the couch, waits for her to do the same.
But she doesn't even make an effort to remove it from her body.
"You, uh, want me to take your coat?" he asks carefully, clearing his throat. She hesitates and he thinks she might say no, but then she's pushing the buttons through their holes and tossing the garment onto the couch with his.
He lets out a breath and steps into the kitchen, grabbing a glass from the cupboard. He sticks his glass under the faucet, noticing how his hand shakes slightly. The air is heavy, pushing down on his chest. He gasps, sucks in a gulp of air.
"You okay?" she asks. He looks over his shoulder to find her sitting on a stool behind the island, eyebrows raised.
"Yeah. Just, um…do you want some water or anything?"
She eyes him suspiciously, but shakes her head. He nods in acknowledgement and takes a gulp of water before setting the glass down on the island.
"Nothing happened," he blurts out. Her eyes snap to his, confused.
"With Sophia," he finishes. She looks like she's about to shut down, so he presses on.
"I didn't know she was gonna show up here, Kate. We talked for five minutes and then she left."
"What did she want?" Her voice is clipped, but he's grateful that she's responding at all.
"Wanted to apologize for earlier, for cutting me down in front of everyone back at Headquarters."
"What happened with you two?"
He hangs his head, really doesn't want to get into this. "Kate, it was 13 years ago. Why does it matter?"
She purses her lips, shaking her head. "Because, Castle. It matters to me, all right? How can I trust that this thing between the two of you is over if I don't know what happened?"
His heart clenches. But he hadn't realized—
Oh. She thought he'd given up on them, chosen Sophia over her.
Oh, Kate. God, he was an idiot.
"We slept together. Once. I wanted her. She wanted the job." He realizes that a lie would probably hurt less, that the fact that Sophia had rejected him and not vice versa didn't really help matters. But she wanted the truth and he was tired of hiding, tired of subtext and evasive maneuvers.
"So…what? This was a second chance?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Kate."
She laughs bitterly, twists herself off the stool and props herself against the wall, arms folded. "Ridiculous? I'm just trying to understand, Castle. Trying to wrap my mind around the fact that you seem to be perfectly willing to throw away a three year partnership for an old flame."
"A partnership? Is that all I'm throwing away, Kate? A partnership?" he spits. She doesn't say anything.
"I know that you heard what I said in that cemetery. So let's just stop pretending that our working relationship is all this is about. I'm trying to salvage—"
"That's such a load of crap, Castle."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" His eyes narrow and he steps closer to her, pushing his back against the island.
She shakes her head, lets out a mirthless chuckle.
"You're tired of waiting, right? Isn't that what this about? You're sick of waiting for me to come around." She's yelling now, which leaves him oddly relieved.
"I didn't say—"
"You didn't have to!" She runs a hand through her hair and walks over to the couch, bracing her hands against the back. "You didn't have to," she says again, quieter.
He follows her, leaves only a few inches between their bodies. He places his hands gently on her arms, waits for her to flinch out of his grasp, but she doesn't.
"Kate," he pleads, willing her to turn around. She swipes a hand across her eyes and—
God, she's crying.
He spins her around, cradles her face with his hands.
"I will never stop waiting for you."
"Means nothing. You keep saying that I look at her the way I used to look at you. But you've got it backwards, Kate. I look at you the way I used to look at her. And God help me, I'm sorry if I made you think otherwise." He watches as her eyes start to clear, and he thinks—hopes—that he's finally starting to get through.
"I heard you." He blinks at the abrupt change of subject, lets his hands fall from her face. They aren't talking about Sophia anymore.
He sighs. "I know."
"I've been dreaming about it, about telling you. We're trapped in the water again and I open my mouth, but nothing comes out and we drown before I ever get a chance to tell you."
"That's why I showed up here today, to tell you."
"Say it, Kate."
"I don't want you to have to wait anymore. I'm so goddamned sick of waiting, Rick," she rasps.
"So we stop waiting," he says simply.
"And we, what? Call it even?" she asks in disbelief.
"I'm not gonna punish you, Kate. I understand your reasons. I don't like them, but I understand them. Can't you extend the same courtesy to me?"
She bites her bottom lip, invading his space again. Her eyes flit to his mouth and back to his gaze. He sucks in a breath.
"Ask me again." Ask her-?
"Say it again, Kate."
Her eyes shine and there's light and life and—
"I love you, Castle."
I'm rarely satisfied with anything I've written when I'm finished, but I think this is quite possibly the closest I've come. I really enjoyed writing this one.