Title: Toward the Flame

Author: eyrianone

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: (Props to ViaLethe) 'Words are mine. World ain't.

Summary: If you love someone – you'd better let it out. Post Ep. 47 Seconds. One shot.

A/N: So my last little ficlet for this episode was brutally depressing – this is happier – in the end.

If you love somebody
You'd better let it out
Don't hold it back
While you're trying to figure it out
Don't be timid
Don't be afraid to hurt
Run toward the flame
Run toward the fire
And hold on for all your worth

Jewel Kilcher

The first few days after they close the bombing case she keeps telling herself she's over-reacting, that the bombing just has him shell-shocked and out of sorts. So she asks him every day, "Castle – are you alright? Is there something wrong? Do you want to talk about it?"

And everyday he shuts her down.

By the time a week and two new cases have passed them by she stops kidding herself – because something is very wrong and he is no longer the man she thought she knew.

Oh he's unfailingly polite, and he still turns up whenever she calls him – but there isn't any trace of warmth in his voice when he speaks to her now; and he hasn't brought her a single coffee since then either. He's taken to calling her 'Detective' a lot, 'Beckett' sometimes, but 'Kate' – 'Kate' not at all.

Desperate to hear her real name she tries calling him 'Rick', softly and with mountains of feeling, she murmurs it to him. At one point it would have instantly pulled his heart into his eyes, softened his edges and tugged his mouth into a smile. But the new version of her partner flinches instead. A bright flash of pain – so quick she almost believes she imagined it – shoots across his previously impassive face – and then it's gone.

Things only get worse afterwards.

Castle starts dating.

His phone pings constantly - text messages, tweets and voice-mails. He has an endless stream of lunch-dates picking him up at the precinct, and all of them are blonde, perky, fake and clearly smitten with him.

Fighting to hold onto her dignity she tries to ignore it, but jealously is a wild and stubborn thing. It's alive, it's un-restrain-able and it's taken complete control of her heart. It spills out of her via catty comments and snarky remarks - and it's the confusion this causes in his once vibrant eyes that gets to her the most. Like he honestly doesn't understand why she would care – like he's a stranger who doesn't know her at all.

And it hurts her. It hurts her so badly. It hurts her all the time.

There are days she feels like she's dying.

One thing – however – has become abundantly clear.

Castle is pulling away. This much she knows. He's very obviously moving on. And he's doing it by going right back to living his life the way he used to live it when they first met. And while she struggles with this inescapable fact, she looks endlessly for a sign, something to tell her it doesn't make him happy – but she cannot locate the cracks if this is a façade. Beyond that one brief flash of pain that came with her usage of his given name – he hasn't betrayed anything but this 'new' (old?) front since.

Lanie and the boys are as mystified as she is. And pity has taken up a permanent residence in all their eyes. Finally needing to talk about it she invites Lanie over for drinks and a 'girl's night' and all her friend can tell her is that she waited too long. That she pushed him too far. That he got 'tired of waiting' for her and so he just gave up the chase.

She asks Lanie if there is anything she can do about it. And Lanie says – "Let me put it to you this way. Do you love him Kate? And are you willing to tell him that you love him? Do you need him? And are you willing to give him what he needs from you – because he needs all of you Kate – and if there is any part of you still holding back then you need to let him go."

She finds the answers are easy – because the only impossible thing would be learning to live without him.

Lanie sees it on her face

"Then fight for him Kate. Fight hard. Fight dirty. And for God's sake fight now."

So Kate tries. She really does. She drops the catty comments and she tries smiling at him again instead. She issues dozens of invites and she buys him coffee and she tries to show him in a hundred different and thoughtful ways how much she cares. And she does attempt to tell him – she stumbles over the words and but tries over and over again to find or to engineer opportunities for them to talk. But he's slippery now. He's firm, and he's resolute and he just won't let her get it out.

His only concession is that he at least smiles back - but they are only the fake kind- that never even gets in the vicinity of his eyes, and he dodges her invites with another flurry of women. His eyes grow colder the more she tries to engage him and he builds more theory with the boys now than he ever does with her.

She didn't know it was possible to miss having someone finish your sentences for you.

She does now.

Next she starts dressing more purposefully. She pops that extra button, and she wears that tighter shirt and she looks at him from under her eyelashes - and then she hates herself for all of it because this is not her and she can see he doesn't even notice.

And then suddenly one day he's just gone.

She calls him for a case and he tells her that he's sorry but he's already on one.

He's decided to do some research with the gang unit. The next book is going to involve them pretty heavily he says and he wants the details to be right. Needs to focus some time to it he says – because he thinks he's got the workings of the Homicide division pretty mastered now. But thanks, he says, and for sure if they get stuck and she really thinks he could help then he'll stop by – when he has a moment – see if anything on the murder board pops.

And then he hangs up and he doesn't say goodbye.

Except that of course – he just did. He just stopped being her partner – in that moment right there – the one on the phone and she cannot stop the tears.

She cannot stop them – not all day.

Kate takes an unheard of 'sick-day' in the aftermath.

In the darkness of her apartment, with her soul breaking inside her she realizes she's not all out of fight. She's tried 'hard' – and she's tried 'now', but she hasn't tried 'dirty' – and if anything was ever worth fighting dirty for then it would be him wouldn't it? It would be Richard Edgar Castle – so she seeks out his mother at her acting studio the very next day.

The cold-shoulder treatment seems to be epidemic in his household though – and initially it sets Kate back on her heels. Truly and honestly surprises her. Martha has always been so warm and welcoming and 'motherly' towards her. She has always seemed like she approved of Kate – in relation to her son – but the actress frowns upon spying Kate waiting for her at the rear of the Little Black Box theatre, and the bleakness in her eyes when she approaches, sends a clear message otherwise. Thankfully Kate's finally reached the point where courage is no longer required because you just simply have nothing left to lose.

So she stands her ground, and she fights not to cry, and she fumbles for a smile in the face of his mother's blatant disapproval.

It's an epic fail.

And Martha slices right through her when she says, "I don't know why you're here, but I really have nothing to say to you Detective Beckett."

"Martha I just want to talk to you . . . about Castle."

"No." Is his mother's instant reply. "No. My son has gone through enough because of you Detective – so you leave him alone now. You let him move on."

The woman goes to walk past her and Kate grabs her arm. Grabs it hard, and holds on tight.

"Please." She says, her voice trembling and her knees weak. "Please Martha . . . I'm begging you. You must know – he must have told you – what happened? Was I just too late? Did I just miss my chance? Why won't you help me?"

His mother's eyes are full now too – of anger and sadness and pain.

"You broke his heart." She says, pure venom is in her words. They echo with a mother's hatred towards the one who caused her child pain.

Kate's tears spill over.

"I never meant too. I know I made him wait. I know I held out . . . "

His mother shakes her head.

"You played him for a fool. You strung him along deliberately, when you should have just had the courage to tell him you didn't love him."

Wait. What? How?

"But I did. I do. I will . . . always. I've never loved anyone as I love him."

And his mother's eyes soften. Just like that – in the instant when she get's the words finally out.

"Then why did you lie?"

Lie? Lie? Oh . . . lie. That lie. But Castle doesn't know about that . . . oh God. He does, of course he does . . . Bobby Lopez and the coffee on her desk – how blind has she been - it explains everything.

She's struck dumb. Just dumb.

So his mother fills in the blanks.

"He didn't mind the waiting Kate. And he understood the wall. It was the lie you told him. All this is the result of the lie. Richard thought you kept silent about his declaration because you were embarrassed for him - because you didn't feel the same way. He thought he was the world's biggest fool, because he'd believed you really had the chance at a future together."

"We did." Kate cries. "Please Martha. Help me change that into 'we do'."

His mother takes hold of Kate's arms, shakes her slightly.

"You cannot hold back from him if I do this. You cannot use me to get to him and then cause him any more pain – do you understand Kate. All or nothing – do I have your word?"

"You have my promise Martha. I'll hold onto it for all I'm worth."

She waits in quiet desperation then. And a week goes by. And another one follows. Hope has become a mythical thing she no longer has the strength to hold onto and then late one night, when the precinct is almost deserted and she's staring into space as she boxes up the remnants of another closed case he comes to her.

She doesn't hear the elevator; he just materializes in his old chair and when she realizes he's there she almost falls from her perch on the side of her desk.

Her mouth goes bone dry. She can't manage a word, just a broken gasp of surprise. He's thinner, and he looks like someone beat the crap out of him because his lip is split and his left eye is bruised. But the light in his eyes, the warmth and the humor and the love . . . of dear God thank you – the love are back. As is the smile – the twinkle – the pure 'Castle-ness' of him that she's missed so very – very much.

"Hey." He offers quietly. He follows it up with, "I would have come by sooner – but I was in the hospital – gang unit got a bit rough."

A bit rough? She's instantly furious at whichever numbskull he's been shadowing that would allow him to come to any harm. No one hurts her partner – no-one, especially not her.

She nods. "Are you okay?" She manages – a broken whisper.

"I am now." He says smiling, "And I'm not talking about the beating." He adds.

Kate feels herself start to smile – and her cheeks hurt – she hasn't smiled in so long.

"I'm sorry." She says, finding her voice. "Sorry you heard what you did. Sorry I lied. Sorry for making you wait – for not being braver – I'm sorry Castle – I'm. . . "

"Do you really love me?" He interrupts.

"More than you'll ever know." She says. "More than there are words to say it."

He reaches out, grabs for her hand.

"Say it anyway."

So she does. She leaps into the fire with him – and she never, ever, let's go.