Notes: I really feel like I am not that hard to please. I didn't need undying confessions of love from that whole Sinking Car Scene. I didn't even need them to hold hands, or for anyone to cry out, "Oh, flee and save yourself!" But really, if you're going to go through the trouble of sinking the freaking car and then having somebody pass out, are you really not going to give me any CPR action, writers? Because it turns out I'm surprisingly uncool with that.
Disclaimer: Title is the same as a Billy Collins' poem. If Castle and Beckett were mine, there would have been naked CPR on Pier 32.
There's the space of a heartbeat when she's aware only of them, of the cold hard press of them against her own mouth. It's not enough, not enough to warm her; she wants the slick slide of his tongue against hers, she wants his fingertips skating over her stomach. And then she thinks he might understand, because his hands are pressed between her breasts and oh, ouch.
Stop, stop, she thinks at the feeling, the spiders of pain and awareness radiating out from her sternum. She wants to let go, to sink back down to the before, the dark and hazy stretch of infinity where she was floating quietly. Consciousness yanks at her, cobbles together sounds, a breathe and a goddamnit Kate, and she doesn't want any of it, the pain in the voice, the hurt in her chest, she just wants to go back.
Then his lips, again, press firm and desperate against her own, and she feels a drag down her throat and through her lungs as her body reflexively responds to him, like always, against her will.
There's no air left in the world and she wants to draw herself together, shoulders to knees, but there's his chest, leaning over her, blocking that, and then her body's wracked with coughs, trying to drag some oxygen from the atmosphere, and there's his voice, this desperate rumble, saying, "That's good, that's right, like that."
She catches a thread of air and her lungs burn cold and she wishes she could stop coughing; there's tears now streaming down her face but she can't choke back the reflex. His fingers sweep rough across her cheeks and she can't get a grip on her own body, on these ragged, sobbing gasps of air she just can't seem to stop. His face is too close and it's not helping; she needed him to breathe but she needs her space, now, needs him to move away.
He looks like he wants to say things, his throat working, his eyes brimming. She wanted to say things, too, before the water swept over her head, but now it seems certain she'll live and she's left only with embarrassment. "My car," she groans, just a wisp of air behind the words, heading the conversation off before either one of them can blurt something they'll regret.
He laughs, this rumble near her chest that's somehow not filled with all the relief it should be. "I'll buy you a new one. I'll buy you a fleet of new ones."
"Blakely," she tries, even knowing that he's dead.
Castle shakes his head, though he can't know any more than she does. Her muscles shiver, spasm. Now that she can breathe, still with a lance of pain stabbing through her lungs on every inhale, she can feel the cold latching onto her muscles, rattling them against one another, and it hurts, hurts so much more than that stillness of water closing over her. "You're cold," he says. He's still hovering over her, inches away, and he lowers himself a little, so his body is just a breath away from hers, as if he can transfer warmth from his freezing torso to her own just by shortening the distance between them.
Now that she's more aware, she can see the shudders that wrack his frame, make his jaw clench. "You are, too," she says. She reaches an arm up, joints stiff, cracking, to lay a hand on his shoulder, to get that extra point of contact, to reassure him. There's something in his eyes, something colder than the river. He doesn't tilt a millimeter into her touch like he usually does.
"That was fast," he says, in a voice that leaves her more frozen.
"What?" The word rasps against her throat, raw from coughing. She doesn't need to ask, but maybe he'll leave it, drop it, let her go. It's not the time.
"You're fitter than I am," he says, an edge to his words that tells her he's going to hold on to this. "I was under for longer than you. A minute longer. Maybe more."
"You must be really good at holding your breath," she says. She can't get to a smile.
"Kate." His voice is laced with such agony that she wants to respond, but she can't, can't find the words for that sense of absolution, of boundless peace, that rushed through her as the water closed over her head. He won't understand that suddenly she didn't need to release the seatbelt, didn't want to burst out the window. He'll be safe, she remembers thinking as the world and all its futures unfurled in the cold water and she was weightless, full of hope and possibilities.
She gathers the air in her lungs, sucks in a deep breath, but it's too much and she's seizing with another coughing fit. He runs his hand over her wet hair, over her cheek, until she quiets. "Do you have a point?" she asks, but she can't quite summon the bite to back up her words. They come out as a humiliating, tremulous murmur.
"I was under the water for a minute. I found the gun. I shot out the window. You were already unconscious. I still had air to shoot your seatbelt out. Untangle you from it. Get you out of the driver's seat. Swim thirty feet to the surface with you." She can't tell if his cheeks are wet or if he's crying. She's never heard this low vibrato to his voice, this resonating combination of anger and desolateness that seems to well up from the depths of his chest.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she manages to get out in a broken whisper.
"You stopped fighting," he says, his words gaining strength.
"It wasn't like that," she murmurs, but her voice lacks power, because it was, she did.
And then he really is yelling, a quiet, barren kind of shout as his fingers clench hard around her forearms. "Since when do you stop fighting? Since when do you give up when the water closes over your head?
Her throat works, but she can't, can't form a denial because she doesn't know what's happened, doesn't know what to blame. His face is only inches from hers. His eyes are alight with this horrible, frustrated kind of love that is too much.
A siren wails in the distance, and she starts, lifts her shoulders a little. The sound gets closer. She can feel his hard, angry exhale against the tip of her frozen nose, but this is good. They are cold, they have information, this is not the conversation they should be having right now. They almost died, but they didn't, and now they have work to do.
"Later," she says.
He squeezes his eyes shut for the space of a breath. She's fairly sure she's never caused anyone this much pain. "Later," he agrees, his voice quiet, now, shot through with the icy rivulets of the Hudson.
Later, Sophia is dead and Castle's father may or may not be a CIA operative and World War III may or may not have been avoided by her flying into the side of a man with a gun. They've successfully skirted any mention of the river, mostly because all their energy that wasn't directed at the case had Sophia's presence hovering over it. Once or twice, she caught a quiet intensity to his stare, a gaze that pinned and flayed her, but it was probably never quite the right time for him to say You let yourself drown in the Hudson.
Home, exhausted, she can only bring herself to want to sink into the warm cocoon of a bath. She thinks she should shy away from it on principle, submersing herself in water, but she can't quite dredge up the fear that would be required. A sharp rap on the front door echoes through her house when the tub is only halfway full.
This is not what she needs right now.
She breathes, closes her eyes, and hopes that maybe he'll go away. The knock reverberates again, louder, then again, until it's this continuous sound that won't leave.
She's angry, suddenly, just wants the quiet back, can't deal with his constant tattoo on the shell of peace she keeps trying to build. She twists the tap off, hard, and paces over to the door.
"I'm about to take a bath," she says as she yanks the door open. He blinks, taken aback, and she's immediately sorry. The culmination of these past few days have been harder on him than on her - Sophia's betrayal and death, the sudden specter of his father.
He swallows, jaw clenching. "I should probably stay, then," he says.
A week ago, it might have been flirty. Now, his words make her flinch. "I'm not going to drown myself in the bathtub, Castle," she says, but she shifts her weight to her left hip, leaving an extra inch of space so that he can brush by her into the apartment. She closes the door behind him.
"You know it's a bad week when your former muse and lover tries to shoot you in the head and start World War Three and that's not even the biggest betrayal," he says.
She shakes her head at him, slowly, a denial and a request for him to stop talking, to let it go. He should know that lately, later has meant never with her.
"You gave up," he hisses, and the raw pain behind the words is only slightly less powerful than when they'd been on the dock.
"That's not fair," she says. It's not right for him to compare her one brief moment of peace to what Sophia did.
He walks over to her couch, sinks onto it, rests his elbows on his knees and drops his head to his hands. The curl of his neck and back is so desolate that it pulls at her, draws her over, and she folds down next to him. He drops his hands, stares straight ahead. "I close my eyes and every time I see you unconscious in that car, staring vacantly out the windshield. Looking dead."
"I'm sorry," she whispers, feeling it, finally. Sorry for what it would have done to him, at least, if he hadn't blown consciousness back into her chest.
"Help me understand," he says. He doesn't say, you owe me that, but she hears the echo anyway.
She shrugs, feels the words flowing from her, lets them out without thought, without censorship. "Last summer. I want to say I thought about calling you every day, that it was a struggle to keep from picking up the phone. But it wasn't." She sees him flinch, crumple, but the words keep coming. "It was so easy not to think. After a few weeks I didn't even need painkillers. I could get out of bed and do my physical therapy and feed myself and go for walks, day in, day out, on and on, and it was the easiest thing in the world."
He's shaking his head. "But you came back."
"I did," she sighs. "But there's some things…" She can't articulate it, suddenly, her flow of words dwindling.
"Some things are easier to just - accept," he prompts. He sucks in air and continues, diving in, "like your mother's case."
She feels it tightening around her throat, but he's right. "Yes. Eventually you stop fighting. Like us," she finds herself saying.
He's staring at her, disbelieving. "What?" His voice is strangled.
"My mom's case. Us. It's just like drowning. You fight to find a killer or you fight to break down a wall, but you get so tired. And there's this peace that you can find, in the spaces when you can ignore someone shot you in the chest, when you can pretend that you're happy platonically."
"Or when the water closes up over your head," he murmurs, tugging on her arm, her knee, rotating her body into his as he turns to her so that their legs are pressed together and his arm is on hers.
"I'm sorry," she says again, because there are tears shining in his eyes and she's hollowed out, empty, not sure what else she can give.
"You were dying in my arms again."
He sounds so broken. She wants to tell him that she'll never do it again, never give into that bubble of infinite peace that comes on the brink of death, but Christ, it was so alluring that she's not sure that's a promise she can make. "I'll try," she starts, but there's nothing else to say; in the end, that's all she has.
"We can try together," he offers her. He leans in and brushes his lips against hers, cool and hot and dry and light instead of the cold, hard desperation of before, and she thinks that maybe it might work, if he keeps kissing her like this, that maybe, for a time, she can find her bubble of peace and absolution somewhere other than the green and quiet water at the bottom of a river.
"We'll try," she amends, murmuring the promise against his lips.
Thanks to Jill, who is surprisingly tolerant of the sucking vortex of time that is basically every interaction with me.
Reviews make me want to not drown in the Hudson.