Eat Mor Chikin!
A/N: I found this postcard on a Tumblr blog called Inspired By the Feeling, and it sparked an idea.
Apologies to Chick-fil-A for borrowing their cows!
She leaves the precinct five minutes behind Castle, her brow still furrowed, her mind pensive as she puzzles over the day and it's abrupt ending.
"Looks like it's just us," she told him, feeling brave, and powerful, and…ready. Oh so ready!
No more waiting. To hell with walls.
He'd wanted to talk to her about something. Something that had looked very important. His heart had been in his mouth, she was sure, the way he looked at her; all hopeful and open, eager, like he'd figured this out for them and was about to show her the way forward…together. He'd looked nervous too, she realized, as if on the verge of something momentous.
So what then?
He refused to go out for a drink (unheard of), left her alone, putting on her coat, fixing the collar, her hair. That was his job now. So why did he leave?
"Nothing important," he'd said, when she asked him what he wanted to discuss after they'd been interrupted the first time round by Esposito.
She'd tried to look encouraging when she'd asked him; her eyes seeking out his, a gentle smile on her face, head tilted sympathetically to the side.
But the lie was written all over his face.
So why hadn't she challenge him? They were better than that now. They were more. She was more.
She shoves her hands deep into her pockets and starts to walk, building up a rhythm as her feet pound the sidewalk, letting her mind drift back over the day, in and out of conversations, listening in like an eavesdropper to her own subconscious mind.
The hopeful, exited look on Castle's face is haunting her, so strongly juxtaposed against the face he'd shown her as he left. A mask. Cold, almost sneering.
Kate is still wired, too worked up to go home, but not desperate enough to go drinking alone. So she aims towards a nearby coffee shop, and pushes on inside out of the cold.
"Grande skim latte, two pumps sugar free vanilla, please," she tells the barista.
Her attention is drawn to a spinner of promotional postcards standing next to the cashier's desk. She idly turns the stand around, eyes and fingers flicking over the cards, taking in their mottos and images as she waits for her order to be ready.
Her gaze alights on one particular card. The background is of a bright blue, summery sky, and fluffy white clouds brushed with sunlight. The tops of green trees frame the edges of the card, as if someone was lying on the grass, looking up from the earth, when the photograph was taken. The whole image is slightly out of focus. But the words…the words are what grab her attention and stop her in her tracks.
Scrawled in a dark, scratchy, almost sinister hand is the motto:
'SAVE YOUR HEART FOR SOMEONE THAT'S WORTH DYING FOR.'
Kate picks up a copy of the card and it slips through her trembling fingers, skidding to the floor just as the young guy with The Kinks tee shirt calls out her order. She hastily snatches up the postcard and carries her coffee over to the window, props herself up on a bar stool, and stares with glazed, fascinated eyes at the picture.
Ten minutes later, and her coffee is nearly cold. She's still staring. The card seems to have a hold over her that's magnetic, mesmerizing. The disturbing scrawl reminds her of something. It could have been written with a Sharpie, the letters all black and jagged. In fact…
Her detective's brain scrawls through her visual memory banks…and yes, it's there.
An image of a black and white cow pops into her head, a scrawl that says 'Eat Mor Chikin'. It's Chick-fil-A she's thinking about. Only, when she turns the card over, it's sponsored by a Christian group, called Jesus Saves.
Bizarre. Could this day get anymore bizarre?
The motto taunts her as she sips at the lukewarm drink, and then chokes on the tepid liquid.
She thinks of Castle as she does battle with the grammar in the statement. For someone that's worth…or for someone who's worth…? He'd know. Instantly.
But the smile his image generates slips from her lips as more words and phrases from the day just gone swim into her free-floating mind.
"Well, that's what your friend Jessie would call sinning by silence. It's not smart. It's not brave. It's just cowardly."
She shakes her head, runs the words back through her mind like she's hearing them for the first time.
Did Castle really say that?
She re-runs it again, like a tape recording, listening to his inflection, the hidden meaning in his words, the…
Her hands go cold all of a sudden, and her heart stutters, a valve tripping closed just a fraction of a second too long. She feels it flutter in her chest, pumping just that little bit harder when it resumes. She feels light-headed, sees stars in front of her eyes.
He heard me. It comes to her in a flash. He heard me.
He heard me, and now he knows that I heard him, and that I…lied.
The word is like acid on her tongue as she breathes it out loud, whispers it in the window of the coffee shop while strangers pass by in the street oblivious to her panic.
No wonder. No wonder he left. My god, my god, my…
Kate gets up from the stool, tipping it over backwards in her rush to get out of there. It clatters to the floor and a child jumps at the noise.
"You dropped your diamond!" says a loud, wise-cracking, old, Jewish woman, a jet black wig sitting slightly askew on her head, fingers ironically dripping in jewels.
Kate's of out the door and standing in the street before she can process what's happening. She breathes hard, still clutching the postcard in her hand.
Panic is overtaking her.
What if I'm too late? What if he's moved on? What if he doesn't even love me anymore?
He mind is a garbage disposal, a whirling mess of thoughts and emotions. Sensible, logical Kate has temporarily left the building. She knows she needs to get a grip. She knows it's down to her to fix this. She hopes she has what it takes. She knows this is all her fault.
But what it comes down to, she realizes with a jolt - standing on that busy sidewalk - is that she's already found that someone worth dying for, and she's been too busy saving her love, when she should have been sharing it. With him.
Her hands are sweating when she knocks on the door of his loft, the postcard grasped tightly in her fingers, an ache building in them that momentarily distracts her from the ache in her chest.
One thousand one, one thousand two, she's counting out loud as she listens for footsteps; his heavy, sure-footed steps…
He's out. With someone else, her brain screams at her. You're too late, mocks her evil subconscious.
She takes a breath, straightens her back, fishes her cell phone out of her pocket and dials.
One thousand one, one thou…there's ringing! His unmistakable ringtone for her, and the sound is coming from inside the loft.
The top notes of "Brown Eyed Girl" drift to her ears before being cut off abruptly, long before voicemail would kick in.
He's in there and he's screening.
"Richard! I know you're in there," she yells, like a woman possessed, hammering on his door with her fist.
He's screening out her calls!
She hammers again. "Rick Castle, open the…"
Kate stumbles forward when the door is yanked open. Her fist slides across the varnished surface, the momentum throwing her off-balance.
But he's gone before she even has time to blush. Turned on his heel, leaving the door wide open behind him.
Kate hesitates, unsure what to do next, until her fingers twitch on the postcard – her talisman – and she steps over the threshold.
The lounge area, kitchen, staircase, all of the open spaces she can freely see are empty. Which leaves his office and his bedroom.
She's hoping he's in his office, because if she has to hear that it's over between them (when did it start? did she miss that too?), then she'd rather not be within sight of his bed.
Kate taps lightly on the bookcase that divides off the space from the rest of the loft. No reply.
Beckett, be a man, she tells herself. Just do what Dr. Burke taught you, and talk it through. No more hiding. Speak what's in your heart. How bad can it be?
He's slumped in a chair, a heavy crystal tumbler in his hand. Amber liquid coats the bottom of the glass. The bottle on the table beside him is only half full. She hopes he didn't open it tonight.
How bad can it be? By the looks of this pitiful scene…pretty darn bad.
"Castle," she tries, but he ignores her, face turned to the wall.
She slowly takes off her coat, drops it on the small sofa, then she kicks off her shoes, and silently, calmly sits down on the soft, leather cushions.
Still he doesn't react. Just stares into the glass like it's the most fascinating thing on the planet.
So she takes her heart in her hands, and she begins to talk.
Her voice is shaky at first, until she gets it under control. Breathing steadily helps, and the more the words tumble out, the freer she feels. If he still doesn't want to know her after this, then at least she's free of the burden this awful, awful secret has been for her.
"I know you heard me today. In the interrogation room, Castle. When I yelled at Bobby. I know you know…" she swallows hard, wipes a tear that appears unbidden on her cheek. "I know that you know that I heard you," she says carefully. "That I lied to you…have been…for months."
She has to force the words out for this to work. He has to hear all of it.
"I heard you tell me that you love me that day, and then I lied to you. What I did…it's…probably unforgivable. How you found out…maybe even more so. But, Castle," she chokes, and her nose starts to run, "I've been trying. I hope you can see that?"
He reacts for the first time since she entered the room, but it's not good. He snorts at her last words, a shallow, bitter sound, and she mentally backs up, repeating the words again in her head.
"Please don't think…this is coming out wrong," she pauses again. Regroups.
"Loving you is the easy part," she says, a smile finally falling on her lips.
Castle shifts in the chair but doesn't turn round.
Kate warms to her subject.
"Loving you was all I had to hold onto for such a longtime that I forgot that I needed to live with you too. But we were nearly there. I saw it in your eyes, today. You were going to tell me, weren't you?" she asks, holding her breath. "You were going to ask me…to take the next step," she says, breathing each word, imagining what that could have meant for them. Where they could be right now.
His shoulders lift a fraction then drop again. Kate can't tell what that means, but at least he hasn't thrown her out…yet.
She hurries on.
"When I was shot…hmm," she hums, tries to get herself back under control, because powerful feelings and memories are surging to the surface for her, and yet she knows that this must sound like a worn out excuse to him.
She coughs, clears her throat, hopes he doesn't take the thick choke of emotion as a sign that she's trying to manipulate him. Frankly, she's done enough manipulating and it's time she faced up to that.
"Fear was the only thing I felt. Fear that I might die, fear that my injuries would disable me in some way, either physically or emotionally, and that I'd never recover from it. Fear that you'd look at me differently…as someone weaker, who needed protection."
He stirs at this, as if to protest, but then sinks back down, perhaps to let her carry on speaking.
"You always put me on a pedestal, Castle. The extraordinary KB," she says, quoting from his own dedication to her, "and sometimes it was just too much to live up to. I'm only human. If you prick me do I not bleed?" she says, with a hollow, bitter laugh.
She catches sight of his face in profile, and his eyes close on her dark little joke.
"If you tell me you love me, do I not fail to tell you back? Worse than that, actually, I pretend I haven't heard you. Lie to your face about it. Like Judas…three whole times."
Castle sets down the crystal glass, rubs a hand over his eyes and down across the stubble at his jaw. Kate hears the rasp under the palm of his hand and her fingers twitch. She holds her breath.
"I can't pinpoint exactly the moment I fell in love with you, but if today's the day you fall out of love with me…" deep breath, "…then that's a day I will remember and regret for the rest of my life."
She bites her lip. Looks down at her hands, and then the postcard catches her eye again, resting beside her on the small sofa. Castle is still in the chair, and if she didn't know his breathing so intimately, she'd swear he'd fallen asleep.
"I found this in a coffee shop after you ran out on me today," she says, a flash of anger at the lack of reaction he's giving her.
Okay, so she lied. But this stuff is hard for her, and he knows that, and god…could he not cut her some slack?
If the accusation stings he doesn't show it.
So Kate stands, puts her shoes back on, and collects her coat.
"I found my someone," she says, laying the card down on the table in front of him. "I just hope I wasn't too late in telling them."
She quietly turns, no drama, no yelling. Allows them both to keep their dignity until she can get outside into the street and let rip with the tears that are burning the back of her eyeballs and constricting her throat with a rigor-like strength.
Her hand is on the handle of the front door before she hears any sound or movement, and she's turning it and pulling the door open before he finds his voice.
One foot is out of the door already before he finally dives in and saves them both.
"Kate, wait. I found my someone too."