Notes from a Love Story
Summary: Richard Castle writes Kate Beckett bestselling novels. He also writes her notes. This is their story.
Spoilers: Up to and including 'Pandora' and 'Linchpin'.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Song lyrics throughout are from 'I Won't Give Up' by Jason Mraz.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for the lovely response to the first chapter, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Second and final chapter is here – we're breaking away from canon after the events of the two-parter here, and I'd love to hear what you think. I had an absolute blast writing this, it felt incredibly natural and I really hope I've done their relationship justice.
I see that you've come so far
To be right where you are.
The night they close the case where they almost drown in the Hudson and his former muse turns out to be nothing like his memories, he sticks a post-it note to the back of her new cell phone with two words scrawled in a hand slightly hastier than usual, and is gone before she can get back from the bathroom.
She doesn't. Instead, she goes round before she can talk herself out of it. When he opens the door, she holds out the note and when he takes it, she kisses him.
She falls asleep later that evening in the corner of his ridiculously comfortable couch. When she wakes up alone the room is dark, but she can see his note stuck to the coffee table next to the glass of wine she only managed to drink half of, before the gentle caress of his fingers and the light brush of his lips on her temple lulled her into sleep.
There's a soft beam of light that guides her to his office, and she expects to find him writing. Nothing like a brush with death (and a kiss or three) to inspire a writer like Richard Castle, right? What she finds is nothing of the sort.
His desk chair is turned away from his desk, and she can see the closed lid of his laptop as she stands barefoot in the doorway. He is staring at the darkened screen of his smart board, and when she taps lightly on the doorframe to signal her presence, he turns his chair slowly and she sees that he is holding a folded sheet of paper in his hands, almost reverently.
The look on his face almost undoes her. The look on his face says it's about your mother, and she feels too raw and unravelled, with a heart that she's only just patched back together enough to kiss him, for this.
Her scar pulls tightly at her chest and reminds her not only that she almost drowned, but also that she's not really that patched together at all. She digs her nails into her palms and forces herself not to rub at it because damn it, that man is not seeing her breaking when he's obviously got something that will break her even more.
She can't breathe as he presses the folded sheet into her hands, and she has to blink more than once before she can see through blurred eyes that the four letters printed on the top spell out her name. He tells her that he has something to show her, and that once he's shown her he wants her to go home and read the letter.
Then he turns the smart board on.
She doesn't remember walking out of his apartment, doesn't remember the cab ride home and doesn't remember climbing the stairs to her apartment. All she remembers is collapsing on the floor against her front door as sobs wrack her body, with a burning in her chest that has everything to do with the bullet and betrayal and her somehow unyielding love for this man.
With his letter clenched in her fingers.
When she finally manages to unfold it, the paper is crumpled and creased and she has smudged a couple of words almost beyond recognition with the tightness of her grip.
Kate, he begins, I don't want to apologise. I don't want to be here again, causing you to feel like this, but I need you to believe me when I say that I had no choice. All I'm asking is that you listen.
It doesn't take anything more for the tears to start to fall again, and by the time she has finished reading, there's an entire, painful section that has almost been wiped out by her tears.
She doesn't know how long she sits on the floor that night gripping the letter, but by the time she manages to wrangle her thoughts and her tears into some sort of order, her muscles are burning and contracting in sharp spasms that make her think it's been too long. The case was physically gruelling and being shunted into the Hudson had left her scars burning and her muscles wrecked. Now that it's over, and there's no more adrenaline to keep her going, she's paying for it.
She shuts him out every time she hurts, but somehow even through the pain that burns through every muscles spasm, all she really wants tonight is him. He hasn't really seen any of her recovery, not the stuff that hurts, and aside from the knowledge that she is still seeing her physical therapist, she knows that he probably thinks that she's physically fine.
She hasn't given him cause to think otherwise.
Hasn't let him see this. The way that she is wrecked and next to useless by the end of a tough case. The way that she actually takes her allocated days off these days, because some days she needs to do nothing but lie in bed and let her body recover.
That's what she should be doing right now, but all she can think of is him.
When she finds the strength to pull her cell phone out of her bag, she finds three more post-it notes stuck to the screen in the neat and somehow beautiful cursive that is uniquely his.
She reads them in order.
I love you
(I know you remember)
Please forgive me
She does remember, and once she drags her battered and bruised body back to his doorway, barely able to hold herself up, she hasn't written the words for him.
She says them, instead.
They spend the night on top of the covers on his sinfully comfortable bed because she just couldn't move any further, but when she wakes in his arms the next morning with his arms around her and the warm span of his hands soothing the muscles in her abdomen, she finds that she doesn't hurt as much as she was expecting.
Physically or emotionally.
She keeps every one of the notes from that night, from call me (which she took from his coffee table the next morning) to please forgive me. She places them in a small box in order, and keeps it tucked away at the top of her bookshelf.
It seems appropriate, for her writer.
He passes her small card the next time he takes his seat at her desk, with a cartoon of a little girl with pigtails on the front. Inside, he has written one word.
When she gets home that night she takes the box down and adds the card, still battling the smile she's been fighting off all day. Because somehow, even though they almost crashed and burned before they had even begun, all she can think is that man, still.
Nothing much changes, at least not immediately. He still leaves notes all over her desk, but now he leaves them on her kitchen table and her coffee table too, when they share dinner after a long day or a tough case. They are both doing their best to repair the damage to their relationship, keeping a tight hold on a thin rope of trust that they somehow didn't quite manage to snap.
Slow is the order of the day.
The next time that he leaves a particularly sweet one obscured by her keyboard on her desk at work, she removes the pile of notes from the top drawer of her desk and transfers them all to the box on her bookshelf. She leafs through them as she does, and even all together, they don't seem that scary.
That's not to say she doesn't get spooked, though. She does. She gets scared to the point of wanting to keep him close and wanting to run all at the same time. More than once. It's a confusing, overwhelming muddle of emotions that she still feels highly unprepared to deal with, even after all this time with him.
He steps up to the edge and talks her back with a note, every time.
One time, he draws her a picture of a swimming pool (he adds waves in the water, just to make sure) when she falls asleep next to him on her couch one evening and he knows she's overthinking everything. He adds a diving board at the end and draws an arrow pointing to it. She knows that he's trying to show her it's not so scary. She finds it when he's in the bathroom, and she's sleepy and scared but she laughs anyway because sometimes she really does think he writes down (or at least remembers) everything she says, near death experience or not.
She adds a set of steps somewhere in the middle of the pool when she finds his pen, and draws a new arrow pointing to them, crossing out his. He picks it up when he comes back out of the bathroom and his eye soften as he walks her to her bedroom door, kisses her goodnight, and lets himself out, all without saying a word. That doesn't feel scary at all.
When she wakes up the next morning, the picture is stuck to her bedroom door and all she wants to do is dive in.
He has installed his own notepad app on her new phone, and it automatically saves his messages unless she deletes them. She's long past the point of twisting his ear for it (unless you count the times when he uses her phone to map out a plot point for the new novel because he's worn the battery down on his own with his excessive rounds of Angry Birds, because she really hates to be spoilt), but when she passes Lanie her phone to call for takeout one night and the screen unlocks onto a message she hadn't read herself, she twists his ear for it the next morning. She hasn't discussed her rapidly developing relationship with her writer or the chaste goodnight kisses they have become partial to sharing with her best friend recently, and that makes it an incredibly awkward conversation.
The morning after they sleep together for the first time, while she lies between his luxurious sheets and relives every glorious, toe-curling moment, he makes her pancakes and quotes Ryan and Esposito on the note he leaves under her plate.
Thank you SO much for last night.
When she reads it, she laughs and takes him right back to bed to show him that it's not just last night he has to be thankful for.
He doodles hearts on the sleeve of her coffee cup a couple of weeks later, and Esposito notices them before she does. She has an excuse, a story and an insult to him all rolled into one ready to slip off her tongue, but she takes a breath before she speaks, and finds herself saying nothing.
She keeps the coffee cup sleeve along with his other notes, because it reminds her of the idyllic, peaceful shift when she managed to render not one but all three of her boys truly speechless.
The notes he leaves on her desk don't change that much even when most people know that they're in a relationship (except for the series of 'helpful' notes he leaves all over her paperwork when she threatens to withhold sex if he doesn't do his fair share). For the most part, he actually doesn't need her to draw the lines between their professional and private lives. The fact that they have a private life at all seems to make the separation easy for him. The jokes and the cartoons and the insightful little comments continue to appear on her desk and her computer screen and even attach themselves to the sleeve of her jumper when he's really bored, but he saves the notes that reveal the fact that he is definitely a relationship man for her dresser and her coffee table and the corner of her bathroom mirror.
It reaffirms something that she learnt a long time ago, that the Rick Castle she's in a relationship is nothing like the Rick Castle who graces (graced?) page six. When something matters to him, he's fiercely private and a little bit possessive. It surprises her every day that she actually likes it, and as a result, it's the notes he writes her outside of the precinct that she tends to keep these days.
Sitting at the bar at the Old Haunt one night, she even lets him write a short description of Nikki Heat for his next novel on the inside of her arm because he has a pen but no paper and he's the wrong side of sober and doesn't want to forget it.
She takes a photo of it for him and for her own memory, and even though that photo will later grace the box on her bookshelf, he still has a lot of making up to do after she's forced to explain it to Lanie later that night.
That's not the only time that he writes on her, either. He finds a lot of creative ways to use his words in bed that don't involve a pen at all, and figuring out what he's writing on her skin soon becomes her favourite kind of foreplay.
The first time she takes him to meet her dad, properly, he manages to leave a sticky note on her steering wheel while she's getting ready for brunch.
Relax. Everyone loves Rick Castle.
When she turns to the passenger seat he's got that smile on his face that never fails to melt her heart, so she kisses his cheek and reminds him of how petrified her father left her prom date. She had asked him for the story after that conversation with the boys so long ago, and it still makes her laugh.
As it turns out, her dad does love Rick Castle.
She's still not quite sure what happened between them last summer, and sometimes she thinks that she's still not ready to hear it. He's like an over-excited puppy as they leave the diner though, and she finds herself kissing him senseless in front of her car when she realises just how much the meal meant to him. She kisses him for so long that her father walks out after them, and calls out for her to put him down.
She's not quite sure how a simple meal can make her love them both more, but it does.
He talks about Thanksgiving and Christmas and every other major (and minor) holiday with her father and his mother and Alexis for the entire journey home, and waves the sticky note in her face when she threatens to twist his ear.
She steals the note back from him when she parks the car.
It would be unfair to say that their relationship is all smooth sailing, though. She never expected it to be, not with him. They have their rocky moments to say the least, in amongst the good. She knows that she hasn't been quite ready to dive in and she knows that he knows it too. They deal with their fair (excessive) share of near death experiences, and she still doesn't always win the fight against pushing him away when she's in pain. He knows that she gets spooked easily, and she knows that he's more patient than she ever thought he would be. It's not always enough, though.
Sometimes she wants to run. Sometimes she does.
He yells, she yells. They both walk out, more than once.
It's his notes that bring them back though, every time.
Months ago they danced to a song at Jenny and Ryan's wedding. They actually danced to a lot of songs at Jenny and Ryan's wedding, but this Jason Mraz song is the only one that they both remember. It's not even the first line from this particular song that he's written for her, but when she sees this one tucked into the corner of her mirror through the tears in her eyes one night, suddenly he doesn't seem so far away, even though it was her who pushed him away in the first place.
And when you're needing your space to do some navigating,
I'll be here patiently waiting to see what you find
When she finds the note he left beside her bed, she calls him.
I won't give up on us
They talk for hours and she falls asleep with her tears dried on her cheeks and his voice through her phone at her ear. When she wakes up the next morning, exhausted and emotional and just wanting him, she finds two text messages from him on her phone. One is another line of lyrics. One is just them.
I'm giving you all my love
She goes to him.
When she finally tells him that she's in therapy, she expects the tears to come from her. Instead, they come from him. What started as an argument ends with her falling asleep, holding him against her chest with her fingers tangled in his hair.
She has to be in for an early briefing in the morning, and he barely stirs when she extricates herself from his arms. She can't find a pen, so she writes him a note with her eyeliner pencil.
It's not your fault
p.s. you owe me new eyeliner
From that day, he keeps a pen on her side of the bed.
She tells him about the note she took to her therapy session with her so long ago over dinner the next evening, because she learnt how to read the look in his eyes a long time ago, and she knows that he wishes he could do more.
She tells him so that he knows that he already is.
He writes her a small series of inappropriate notes while they're lying in bed after she tells him they still talk about his notes in her therapy sessions, and she throws every single one back at him before letting him turn a select few into reality.
She doesn't tell Dr Burke about those notes, as it happens.
When Paula manhandles him into a two week book tour of Europe (given the sounds she heard from his office during that conversation, she wouldn't be surprised if that description was literal), he excels himself. She expects the notes he leaves around her apartment, and she isn't surprised by the ones that Alexis gives her each time they meet for coffee. When her dad gives her one when she meets him for brunch the first weekend, she has to stop herself from calling him because it's the early morning in Europe and she has a copy of his schedule on her phone so she knows he was out late the night before. Lanie, Ryan and Esposito also have notes to deliver at strategic points throughout the fortnight, and as they're openly together now she doesn't have to hide her smiles as she accepts them.
Lanie asks her what they say, repeatedly, and she refuses to answer. Ryan and Esposito just think it's cute and sweet and honestly a little bit whipped, bro when they're on the phone with Castle (judging by the frequency of their phone calls, she thinks they might miss him almost as much as she does). She threatens to shoot them when they tease him a little too much, but they take her to Remy's after they close the toughest case they've worked in months, and Esposito calls Castle because it's the middle of the night in London and she won't, and she really needs to hear his voice.
After that, all she can think is that she really does love her boys.
The day that Alexis leaves for college (albeit one that's as close as she always expected it to be), she is there in the morning with a send-off pancake breakfast and a gift that she makes Alexis swear she won't open until she gets there. Castle doesn't know what it is, but to his credit he looks on curiously and says nothing. She suspects he thinks that one of them will tell him later, anyway.
She leaves after breakfast with hugs for all of the Castle-Rodgers family, and an extra one for Alexis. She knows Martha will make her exit soon after, because they have already agreed that this is a father-daughter moment that neither wants to intrude on. With one little caveat.
She leaves a note stuck to the top of his laptop before she leaves.
(I mean it)
And when he calls her less than an hour later with tears in his voice because his little girl has gone, she leaves her second coffee half touched in the café around the corner from his building and walks right back into his arms.
Part of the present she gave Alexis was a series of postcards with quotes from famous authors on them. Alexis sends them to her father through the course of her first semester, and the looks he gives her every time one appears in his pile of mail quite literally melt her heart (she doesn't tell him about the other part of the present because it's a girl thing, and it's nothing bad but there are some things that a father just doesn't need to know).
When he asks her to move in with him, it's accompanied by an elaborate drawing of a house. She calls him on the fact that he doesn't have an actual house for her to move in to (after she's said yes, of course). He laughs, and points out that he does have a house in the Hamptons. She lets him get away with that and take her to bed to celebrate, because that very same house in the Hamptons has fast become her favourite getaway, and even her PTSD and the way her body still aches sometimes don't seem as bad when they're out there.
As they finally get to pack up her apartment a couple of weeks later when murder stops getting in the way, she takes the box down from the top of her bookshelf and shows him the history of their relationship that she's catalogued, topped by his drawing of a house. They go back to the loft to sleep that night because they've spent the whole day in her apartment, and he insists that she takes the box with her. Insists that it should be the first thing she officially moves in (even though an embarrassing amount of her clothes and shoe collection can already be found in his closet).
When they do make it back to the loft, she sits cross-legged on his bed with the box in front of her as he gives her a small pile of letters. Letters that he wrote her over the summer but never sent. He offers to give her some privacy to read them but she won't let him leave, refuses to open a single letter until he's sitting behind her, his thighs warm against her ribs as she settles back against him.
She's crying before she even finishes the first line, and his hands are warm and comforting on her arms as she tells him that he's ruined her.
When she finishes, they add the letters to the box together.
The day that she officially moves in, he presents her with two things. Her loft keys on a beautiful silver elephant keyring (which he stole from her, because she's had them on her own keys for months), and a beautiful, ornately carved wooden box. Her own box is almost overflowing, and he explains that this is for part two. When she opens the box, there's a small typed note sitting at the bottom.
For KB. Who will always get the first page.
When she asks him what it is, he tells her it's the dedication page from his next novel. When she flicks her eyes away to blink away the tears, she notices the thick manuscript sitting on her side of the bed. And suddenly, as she runs her fingers over the words, she isn't scared by all of the things that are going to fill this box.
Because if the first one is like this, how great are the rest going to be?
I won't give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up