A/N: Wow. I think this is the most controversial story I've ever written in terms of the fact that I've gotten a mixed bag of reviews. Some of you loved it, some of you not so much, but the common denominator in all that is I am so very thankful for your feedback. Even the negative ones (or especially the negative ones because how else am I supposed to improve?).
There's a terribly long author's note at the end that I think addresses some of the points people made, so if you're so inclined, have a look. Otherwise, I hope you all enjoy this second part!
Thanks for reading!
He's sitting against the wall next to her door when she leaves for the precinct the next morning. His eyes are bloodshot and his hair a mess and he looks plain miserable.
That's fair, she thinks, because she was pretty miserable last night too.
After she'd dropped her bomb (how is it possible that they could have a "maybe we should see other people" line when they weren't even seeing each other?), her wish for a distraction was granted when Alexis came in through the front door, the fall of tumblers clicking into place loud in the tense bubble of nothing that enveloped them.
Alexis had taken one look at the situation, took in Castle's despondency, and immediately shot Kate a dirty glare. It probably didn't help that Kate was far more practiced at hiding her emotions that Castle was, so it appeared like the despair was all one-sided. Her wailing heart protested otherwise, but neither of the Castles needed to know that.
Still, Kate knew that she deserved Alexis' ire, but it wasn't like it really mattered anymore. She and Castle were done.
No, she reprimanded herself. It still mattered to her that Alexis now thinks her to be the worst person in the world. It mattered because Alexis is an amazing person in her own right, and Kate wishes there wasn't this gigantic Castle-sized problem between them.
"I should go," Kate managed to get out through the lump in her throat and the cotton clogging her mouth.
And so she had left. Left with things that had been said that shouldn't have been said and things unsaid that should have been said.
Which brought her back to her apartment and the personal purgatory that had plagued her all night. Sleep was impossible, and she'd spent most of the night second-guessing herself. "Maybe" was quickly becoming her least favorite word.
Maybe she'd been too defensive.
Maybe she'd been too harsh.
Maybe she'd piled mistakes on him that weren't really his fault.
Maybe she shouldn't have stopped them before they had a chance to become anything.
Maybe she'd been wrong.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
(She hasn't decided yet whether "maybe" or "if only" is worse.)
"Hey," she says quietly, and that one word with three little letters says more than the most eloquent of speeches. She's just not sure what message it conveys yet.
He glances up at her, startled it seems to see her, and then averts his eyes. The way his gaze darts all over the place makes him look a little wild, almost like a feral animal that's been cornered. Her heart aches that she did this to him.
(Maybe she wasn't understanding enough. Maybe she's just not cut out for this relationship thing.)
He doesn't move, and she recognizes that if she wants to salvage any kind of relationship with him (even if she's screwed up the possibility of the kind she wanted, she realizes that she needs him to be her friend, to be her partner more than all of that), she has to take the first step this time. He already made it easy for her by showing up at her doorstep.
She shuts her door and slides down next to him.
She takes a deep breath and says what she should have said from the beginning instead of fighting his cold shoulder with angry fire.
He jerks a little bit in surprise, and she wonders how they've—she's—screwed up so badly that he's surprised to hear her apologize for something that was mostly her fault.
"I'm sorry I lied to you. I know I said it yesterday, but I don't think I really meant it then. I think…I was too upset to really mean it. I do mean it now though. I know there's nothing I can say to excuse it, to make up for the fact that I was the one who was afraid. But you were right. I was more concerned about my own issues than I was for your feelings, and I am really, truly sorry."
He doesn't say a word and her heart constricts. (Maybe she's pushed too far. Maybe she's broken them for good, or worse, maybe she's broken him.)
She watches the way her fingers curl into the fabric of her slacks, and though she's getting no encouragement from him, no acknowledgment that he heard her at all, at least he's still here. That's something, isn't it?
Her fingers clench tighter into her pants and she feels the faint bite of her dull fingernails against her leg. "I'm sorry that I tried to justify myself by making it sound like it was your fault that I lied. I was upset and frustrated and hurt that you kept blowing me off. But...you said once that you don't begrudge me of my coping mechanisms. I'm sorry that I didn't take yours into consideration."
He still doesn't say anything, and her apologies sound so insufficient, even to her own ears.
So they just sit there in the hall of her apartment building. She knows that her neighbors keep casting them odd glances when they leave for work, but she can't bring herself to care.
She broke something yesterday, and she doesn't know if it can be fixed.
Because he wasn't the only one to give up when the going got hard. She did too. And maybe her sin is worse because she knew exactly what she was doing and she still did it.
She doesn't know how long they sit there unmoving and unspeaking, and she's honestly a little surprised that no one has called her in to the precinct yet. She wishes she had the foresight to turn her phone on silent, not wanting anything to break this fragile opportunity to mend fences. She's still trying to figure out how to surreptitiously fish out her phone without calling attention to her movement when he finally breaks the silence.
"I've been thinking." His voice rasps, like he spent a long time drinking or crying or both. It makes her heart clench in the most painful of ways.
"A dangerous pastime," she eventually replies.
He smiles faintly at the reference and it does her good to see his lips turn up in a movement she's more accustomed to seeing on his face. But then he speaks again and she almost wishes that bullet had finished her off.
"I keep thinking maybe I'm really just a closet masochist."
"What?" she chokes out.
"I mean, I know I'll just get hurt, but I keep coming back anyway. Or maybe I'm just insane. That's the definition, right? Repetition of the same action and expecting a different result? I keep banging my head against this wall, and I tell myself that's enough, to stop it before I do permanent damage, but suddenly I find myself right back where I was. And I realize that the damage was done a long time ago."
"What am I doing here, Kate? I mean really, what the hell am I doing here? You lied to me about not remembering. You've already told me you think that we're all wrong for each other. So why am I here?"
She swallows, but it's made harder by the thick lump in her throat. "I don't know."
He nods, as if in satisfaction. "See? Insane or masochistic."
He runs a hand down his face. He's so worn and tired and faded out. A shadow of himself, and she wonders if this was a sudden thing, or if she's only just now starting to see how much her problems have been wearing down on his resolve this whole time.
(Maybe she's poison for him. Maybe she will drown him.)
"Alexis thinks you're too dark for me. Mother says you're too hard for me."
She feels the wetness drip on her hand before she notices the tears on her face. She's crying. She lifts a hand to her cheek in wonder.
But really, why should she be surprised? She'd always known that the Castles operate as a family unit, that to hurt one was to hurt all. But in the years she's known them, she's come to rely on their silent support, their subtle strength. She never would have thought that the loss of that bastion would hit her this hard.
She doesn't know how, but she manages to squeeze out the most important question of all. "And you?"
"I'm pretty sure that you're not the best person for me."
A strangled moan breaks free from the depths of her soul despite her best efforts. She knows she has no right to be upset. She's the one who said it in the first place. But it still hurts, hurts that he would agree.
"You're not the best person for me," he repeats and she wonders for a moment if it's a record that will keep replaying itself over and over again in her head. "You're not, but the thing is, you're the only one."
The world stops for just a beat.
For the longest moment, all she can hear is the blood rushing in her ears. Her lungs burn and she realizes that she's been holding her breath.
She lets out her breath and the dam's been broken.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she babbles through her tears and when she launches herself on him, she prays to God he'll catch her because her vision is blurred to see.
He does, and her heart breaks just a little more.
He hasn't given up after all.
He needed time to cope, and even though she didn't give it to him, he hasn't given up.
His grip around her tightens and somewhere between her knocking him to the floor and their limbs tangling awkwardly, their mutual "I'm sorry's" (I'm sorry I lied, I'm sorry I was such an immature jackass) turn into "I love you's."
She doesn't know who said it first, but she realizes that it doesn't matter. Maybe it's never mattered because this feels so natural, like they've been fighting the universe this whole time and now they're finally in sync, with the world and with each other.
(Maybe they'll make it. Maybe all they needed was to clear the air. Maybe they will be okay.
She thinks that "maybe's" aren't all bad as long as they don't lead to "if only.")
They stay like that, the length of their bodies pressed together and arms wrapped tightly around each other like they're afraid the other might just disappear, until her tears—and his—are dry. She doesn't really want to move because for this one instant, nothing in the world can touch them.
But then the phone that had left them in blessed peace for their whole soul-bearing conversation abruptly makes itself known with a shrill ring that shatters their reverie. (And really, only they would have a moment on the hallway floor of her apartment building.)
She wipes her nose and thinks that under other circumstances, she'd be embarrassed by the line of snot that comes off on her sleeve, but she just doesn't care right now. She sits up next to Castle's prone body and fishes her phone out of her pocket.
"You're giving Gates a hernia. When are you coming in or do Ryan and I have to come save your ass again?" Esposito rattles out without preamble.
Part of her wants to laugh in relief that the world is still spinning, that nothing and everything has changed, that they're really is going to be okay.
"I'll be there in twenty."
She ends the call, eyes never leaving Castle as he sits up next to her. His hand comes up to play with the lapel of her blazer and her breath stutters at the wicked heat that she suddenly notices blazing from him.
"Did all that really just happen? Or am I drunk?" he asks and even though his tone is teasing, there's a very real fear in his eyes that this is all just a figment of his imagination.
"Not drunk, Castle. At least I'm not." She smiles gently and lets her hand do what it had wanted to all those weeks ago when she'd found him in the bank vault, safe and mostly sound. She sweeps the hair off his forehead and traces the line of his cheek. "A wise man once told me that the secret to the success in his marriage was to keep showing up. I know there's still a lot we need to talk about, but I think...I think I'm ready to commit to that. Are you?"
His hand comes up to cover hers on his cheek. "I am. You know I am. It's just…"
The lines between his brows deepen as he frowns. "No more secrets," he says, but it sounds like it's directed more to himself than toward her.
"No more secrets," she agrees and is slightly confused when his expression doesn't clear. "Castle…"
"Come over tonight. After work. I…have something to show you."
She studies him, sees him trying to suppress some sort of panic and it makes the beast in her chest want to crawl out and roar, he can't be trusted and I told you so, but those four words belong to her mother, and her mother always said that the truth can never hurt you. She refuses to let the truth hurt her.
"Okay," she says simply, and it's some strange combination of relief and fear that crosses his face in response.
His expression is still too pensive for her liking though so she leans in and presses a soft kiss to his lips. It's comfort and reassurance all in one. No more giving up for either of them. They press on, no matter what.
"We'll be okay, Castle."
A/N: Yes, that's all I have planned for this story. This was strictly meant to be a reaction fic, not a full-blown how-are-they-going-to-resolve-all-the-problems-in-their-relationship fic, so I have no plans for continuing. I'm sorry I left the issue of Castle's secret hanging there, but the point wasn't his secret. It was really more about their reactions.
That being said, this second part gave me trouble because while Kate was second-guessing herself, so was I (thanks in no small part to a number of reviews I received that made me reevaluate what I had done with the characters). I mean, when I first started writing this last night right after the episode aired, I was so certain that I wanted to take a particular angle. It surprised me that I was more angry for Beckett than I was empathetic with Castle and I think this is large part was due to the way Castle handled the situation. I wanted to reflect that confusion from Kate's point of view because she really has no idea what happened by that point. All she sees is Castle suddenly backing off when they'd basically made an appointment to talk about them after the case, and then in the promo, Castle is seemingly back to his womanizing ways. When I mentioned Castle's immaturity, I was mostly referring to the promo for "The Limey" and the whole passive-aggressive thing he was running, especially in the interrogation room. I thought it was commendable that he put aside his personal feelings to solve the case and I understand his need to get out of Beckett's presence. But like kat6919 mentioned in her review, the return of playboy!Castle was so not doing it for me. Honestly, I really just wanted to rip into Castle for that, and I think my personal opinion was strongly reflected in the first part.
However, as I worked on the second part throughout today, I realized that I'd written myself into a hole. I originally wanted Castle to be the one to apologize first, but then the problem was that he really wasn't the one who should have to put himself out there again. Yes, he handled the situation terribly, but that didn't mean that the pain and betrayal he felt was any less. So, I had to somehow go from tearing Castle to shreds to making it believable that Beckett had an almost 180-degree turnabout in opinion overnight. I'm not sure if I succeeded in that, and you all can tell me how successfully I managed to do that.
In any case, I usually don't write such horrifically long author's notes (especially for a short two-shot deal), but with all the strong opinions I came across in the reviews (which was super cool to read because it gave me a lot of insight in Castle and Beckett that I might not have necessarily saw), I felt like this would be a good place to explain myself. Sorry for the rambling, and I hope you still managed to have a good time with this fic.