AN: I really should be studying, or if at all writing, I should be working on my other story (which is 3/4rs done, but won't be updated till it's finished). But 47 seconds has been roiling around in my head for 6 days now, and this story has to be purged. The story is all from Ricks POV, just because I can't write Kate's voice in this story or I would be bawling more than writing.
Disclaimer: If I owned Castle, it would be exactly like how Rick put it "Oops – I shot too soon". Luckily, I don't and am gaining nothing from this except maybe some peace of mind.
It was done. Finished. Over. Ended.
Castle took a deep breath in and had to make a conscious effort to stop his brain from supplying more ways to describe what he had just done.
He had tried, he really had. He truly had grown to love police work, how he was really making a difference in people's lives, how he was responsible for just a little bit of justice. But it had become too hard. As much as he loved it, he loved Kate more. And being around her for so many hours, knowing that she felt nothing for him… well not nothing. If he was being fair, he knew Kate considered him a friend. But it wasn't enough. Not when she knew – knew and lied to him about it. Because she pitied him? Because she didn't want to hurt him? It didn't matter why really. It just was. And over the past two weeks he had tried to accept it. After the pain had died down, after he could felt like he could look at her and not break down either crying or yelling, he had gone back to work, donning a veneer of carefully crafted civility. He had distanced himself from her as much as he could – but could anyone really blame him for that? It was normal response to pain – withdrawl.
But every time he walked in to the precinct without her coffee and ignored her puzzled, analyzing eyes, with just a touch of wounded Kate beneath it all, every time he tried to build theory with Esposito and Ryan and left her standing alone in front of the board, a slight droop to her shoulders, he realized that it was not working. As much as he hated what she had done, he still loved her, and he was doing neither of them any good with how he had been reacting so far. So that afternoon, had done it.
4 hrs earlier
Castle walked out of the break room and caught Kate staring at his chair with a distant look in her eyes. Again. It seemed like while he was around, she did everything possible to avoid eye contact, but the moment he left the room, she would stare at where he had been seconds earlier. It only resolved the decision he had made as he was getting ready for work that morning.
Yesterday's fiasco of bringing in Jewel in to work had backfired spectacularly. He had not done it to hurt Kate – in spite of the glares than Ryan and Esposito had thrown his way, he really hadn't. He had only meant to show her that he was moving on and she did not have to tiptoe around his feelings any more. Instead, when he had introduced them, Kate had become closed off and curt, and if he didn't know her as well as he did, he would have missed the shimmer of hurt in her eyes as she had quickly excused herself and left to interview a suspect – without him. It was then that he realized that this thing was not working, and perhaps a clean break was the only way for both of them to go forward.
Mentally preparing himself, he walked to his chair and sat down, observing as his sudden appearance snapped Kate back from wherever she was and back to the present, as she shuffled the papers on her desk and bent her head to continue filling in the unending paperwork. He took a moment to stare at the familiar sheen of her hair, the gentle arch of her neck, the long delicate fingers as she gripped her pen. He had spent so many hours enjoying exactly this view, it was hard to believe that it had come to this. To the end.
'I've been thinking Beckett', he finally started, and watched as she started up and stared at him. Huh. Yeah. He guessed he had been avoiding initiating conversations lately. 'I'm about halfway through the last book, and with Alexis going off to college soon, I really want to spend more time at home. So maybe now would be a good time to stop coming in to the precinct.'
He was proud of himself. All that practice saying that same sentence over and over that morning had allowed him to deliver the lines without the hitch in his voice that had happened the first few times he had tried. Some of his smugness dissipated as he watched the effect of the words on the woman in front of him. For a moment – just a moment – he wanted to take it all back, as he watched her eyes widen in shock and pain and then tear up a little. But he held strong in those few seconds, holding on to the feelings of hurt that had brought them to this point, and in that time, Kate gathered herself together. She had done too many interviews, had broken the worst possible news too many times to not be an expert at hiding her reaction and within seconds her emotions were buried. He watched as her walls slammed down, and her eyes turned blank. 'I understand Castle. The paperwork finally got to you huh?' The joke fell flat and lay awkwardly between them. He waited for her to continue, but it looked like she had nothing left to say, so he continued, having tried to work out this entire conversation ad nauseam since he had heard her that fateful day.
'It has been a real pleasure working with you Beckett. I can't even begin to thank you for letting me follow you around. I've learned so much, and I know I've become a better writer, and maybe even, dare I say, a better person over the past 4 years.' He vaguely noticed that Esposito and Ryan had made their way over, and were standing, more than a little protectively on either side of their boss. 'So if you ever need anything, if there is anything I can do for you – any of you' he said, as he nodded to the two flanking detectives, 'please never hesitate to call me.'
There was a beat of silence as the boys waited for Kate to reply, for her to set the tone, but all she was doing was staring at him with that same blank look in her eyes. After a too long pause, Castle stuck his arm out to Esposito, then Ryan, refusing to be hurt as they limply grasped his hand for a second and then shook it off. He wasn't expecting anything different. They were his friends, but they were Kate's brothers. And he would never want that to change. He took a deep breath and then stuck his hand out towards Kate. After only a moment's hesitation, she took it firmly and smiled. 'Good luck Castle. It's been great working with you'. With that, she turned back to her paperwork and the boys, taking a cue from their boss, wandered off to their seats, glancing over at her from time to time. Feeling dismissed, he walked over to the elevator and managing for once in his life to control himself, he did not turn back.
2 weeks later
Castle woke up slowly. Perhaps the only thing he had enjoyed over the past 2 weeks was waking up when his body wanted to, not when a body dropped or when his alarm told him that it was time to get moving to deliver his daily dose of caffeine to Kate. Though that meant he did not wake up to Kate's voice in his year, sometimes deep and scratchy with sleep, sometimes filled with a teasing humor … STOP he yelled at his brain internally. He needed to stop doing that, wandering in the past, when all he wanted to do was move forward so that the pit that he felt in his gut could start to be filled in. So that he was not thinking about her every second of every day.
In fact there was nothing about the past 2 weeks that he had enjoyed. His days were purposeless, long hours spent playing guitar hero or updating his twitter feed with obscure links to websites he was trying to distract himself with. Yesterday he had spent 7 hours watching a live feed of his friend descending to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean. And even after all of that, the only thing he felt was that he was there himself, without the protection of the submarine. The crushing pressure. The darkness.
Alexis had humoured him for the first few days of his self imposed exile, but after 3 days of chocolate chip smiley face pancakes, epic laser tag battles and marathon movie nights, she had had to return to her busy schedule. But she had not asked what had happened, and he had not volunteered any information. For perhaps the first time, he and his daughter were not talking about something. Another thing about the situation that sucked. But things would get better. Right? Right – he thought firmly. They certainly could not get much worse.
As soon as that thought had crossed his mind, there was a banging on the door. Awesome .. visitors ! The only time anyone had come to see him over the past 2 weeks was Jewel, insistently for the first few days, until his disinterest was obvious even to her. He did regret that mildly, he really had used her to try and move on, but he knew that she really wasn't looking for a relationship, only a good time. He strolled up to the door and was surprised to see Esposito standing outside, with a grim look on his face. Immediately his mind jumped to worst case scenario.
Something must have happened to Kate, something horrible and final must have occurred, for Esposito to come and deliver the news personally instead of calling him to a hospital. The room started to spin and his vision narrowed to a point. Throwing a hand out against the door, he slumped against it for a minute, trying to drag oxygen down into non cooperative lungs. How had it come to this. How had he gone from such hope to such despair in the space of a month. Once he regained some motor control, he stood up shakily and wrenched open the door, midway through Esposito banging on it again.
He distantly noted the flash of concern run across Esposito's face, probably at his appearance, before it was replaced by a hard stare.
'What happened? What happened to Kate' he gasped out, and then the world spun again as Esposito grabbed onto his shirt collar and slammed him against the wall.
'You did. You happened' Esposito growled out, with the thickened accent that often emerged when he was angry or upset. 'Do you want to explain what the fuck happened, and why Beckett is walking around like a zombie? Did you sleep with her?'
It took a second for his mind to process what was going on, and when he finally caught up, the anger that he had been building up for so long finally had an outlet. He shoved the Hispanic detective backwards. 'Not that it's any of your god damned business,' he yelled, 'but I did nothing to Beckett. You've got it ass backwards as usual. This one is all on your boss'
Esposito visibly gathered himself, when for a second Castle was sure that he was going to have to sip through a straw for the next few weeks. 'Want to run that by me again writer boy?'
'Not really' Castle ground out. But when Esposito made no effort to move at all, he let his shoulder slump and just gave up. Nothing really seemed worth it anymore. So what if everyone knew. He had always thought his feelings were pretty obvious to anyone who paid attention. So he told Esposito. He told him what he had said in the cemetery that day as he held the woman he loved more than life itself in his arms and watched as she drifted away, though he was sure that Lanie, who had been the only one close enough that day to hear him had already filled her boyfriend in. He told him about the hospital and about the 3 months that he sat waiting by the phone. He told him about the hope that he had been building and hoarding since he had come back to work. And then he told him about that day, in the observation room when everything had come to light. The lie. The futility of his hope. The desolation. 'I just could not do it anymore Espo. What would be the point? Kate doesn't love' – even now, even after weeks of repeating it over and over in his head, his voice hitched and faded halfway through the sentence. Swallowing the lump growing in his throat, and feeling it descend into his stomach and sit there heavily, he continued '-me. She probably never did. And I don't think I could settle for anything less.'
He looked over at his erstwhile friend, and mentally pleaded for understanding. Esposito looked at him for a good minute or two and just when Castle was starting to get uncomfortable, he spoke. 'You know, for an author and someone who is supposedly able to read people really well, you don't know shit.' With that, he pivoted on his heal and walked out, slamming the door closed behind him.
Castle slumped down to the ground against the wall and put his head between his legs. He should be angry about the encounter, but he could not find it in himself. Going over the story of the past year, having to verbalize and live through the highs and lows had taken too much out of him for him to feel any emotion. He was just so tired, He didn't even have the energy to be thankful that his mother and Alexis were out of the apartment as a lone tear trailed down his cheek.
A week later
Castle was struck with a sense of déjà vu as he looked out through the peephole of his front door and saw the stoic face of Esposito staring right back at him. A lot more cautiously than the last time, he turned the lock and cracked open the door.
'If this is "use castle as a punching bag- part 2", you'll understand if I must reluctantly decline Detective, he said, watching the Hispanic man warily. But something was different. Esposito was still standing there staring at him, with a look on his face Castle could not read.
Castle slowly widened the opening he was peering through, till he was standing in front of the other man. He watched as indecision played across the detective's face, until finally he seemed to decide something. Reaching into his jacket, Esposito thrust something forcefully against his chest, and Castle's hands reflexively lifted up to hold onto the folded brown paper envelope.
'You never got this, I was never here. If Lanie or Beckett ever find out, you and I will both wish we were never born. Got it Castle?'
Mutely, he nodded.
'Try not to fuck up so badly this time'. With his jaw working as if he was holding back more, Esposito once again spun on his heel and left him staring at the package in his hands. The last time he had opened a secretive brown envelop, his life had turned upside down. Did he really want to go through something like that again? With a sigh at the knowledge that he really had no choice, he shut the door and drifted into his office. Sitting down at his desk, he closed the lid of his laptop and placed the package on top. He stared at it for the better part of ten minutes, before decisively tearing open the brown paper. Two things dropped out. A digital voice recorder, one that he recognized was the standard model used by the NYPD to take witness statements out in the field, and a folded piece of paper. Opening the paper first, he recognized Esposito's messy scrawl.
'Lanie and I have been back together since the bombing. That's how I got close enough to do this. Trust me, I know I shouldn't have. But here it is. Since you like eavesdropping so much'
Refolding the paper thoughtfully, Castle couldn't help but half grin at the thought of Esplanie being back on track. It was about time. And it figured the bombing case would bring them together. Hadn't he hoped that it would do the same for him and Kate before...Before. The memory wiped the grin off his face, and with a dark sigh he stared down at the voice recorder. His curious mind was already trying to puzzle it out. Esposito said Kate and Lanie would kill them if they found out – therefore it must be a voice recording of Kate and Lanie. Wow. Espo was right, this was enough for either of the women to really tear into them. But he could not stop now, he had never been able to resist his curiosity and even though whatever was on the tape may hurt, he was going to have to find out what it was. Taking in a deep breath, he hit play. Static-y noises gave way to the sound of Esposito's voice.
'Chica, call me whenever you and Kate are done with this girl's night out thing ok?' Esposito's voice sounded hopeful and worrying all at once.
'Javi, you know I would love for you to come over tonight, but this is the first time since the bombing case that Kate has agreed to talk to me at all. And with how she's been acting lately ... well, lets just say this may not go well. Now get out of here. She's supposed to come over in 20 minutes, and you know I want to keep this thing to ourselves for awhile'
Castles eyes widened as he listened to the sounds of Lanie and Espo saying goodbye and realized that Espo must have placed the device in Lanie's apartment. The man had cohones, he'd give him that. He frowned as he heard the recorder click off, then realized that the recorder must be set to activate only when it detected sound. Sure enough a few seconds later, he heard the sound of Lanie greeting someone at the front door
'Kate honey, come on in. Oh you didn't have to bring anything, but thank you for the wine. I'll add it to the collection for tonight! Grab a seat on the couch while I get this puppy open'
Castle strained to hear the sound of Kate's voice. He hadn't heard it for nearly a month now, and his body eagerly waited to catch the sound of her. But he head nothing but a murmered 'Thanks Lanie' when he presumed she had a glass of wine handed to her, and then silence for a long minute.
'How about we get started watching a movie. I have the directors cut of Bridesmaids – how's that?'
'Sure Lanie, that sounds like a plan.'
Castle started at the deep low tones of Kate's voice. She only ever sounded like that when she was upset, or beyond exhausted, or both. Whichever one it was this time, he didn't like hearing it in her voice. He sped up the speed of the player, listening to the movie at 2x the speed and hearing Lanie offer to refill Kate's glass about 4 times in less than an hour. Suddenly, during his favourite part of the movie, when the girls are about to lose voluntary control of their GI system, he hears the movie stop and Lanie's exasperated voice cut through. Quickly slowing down the tape he listened
'Kate, sweetheart. I'm your best friend, so you know I mean this in the best possible way. You look like crap. When's the last time you ate anything? Or slept for that matter?
'I eat Lanie. You don't have to worry about me, Espostio and Ryan keep shoving take out under my nose.'
He hears the slight slur in her voice, and realizes that yeah- she must be running on empty, because this is Kate, who can out drink a whole party of frat boys and still wake up the next morning for an obscenely early body drop, and yet she sounds more than a little wasted.
'The boys also say you don't eat more than a few bites of anything. And don't think I didn't notice you avoid the sleep question either. Oh honey, what's going on? What the hell happened with writer boy? The boys filled me in on how he left. What I need from you is the why.' Lanie demanded gently
'You were right Lanie. He got tired of waiting. I mean can you blame him. Its been nearly a year since the shooting, and I'm still as fucked up as ever. Do you know I've been going to therapy since the sniper case last fall ? Well I have. And it's taken a fucking psychologist and me this long just to pick up the pieces of my life, much less start to glue them back together. Castle deserves so much more.' Kate took a shaky breath and sniffled.
'Remember when he first started shadowing me Lanie? I was so infuriated with him at times. But its all just an act. He is actually one of the really good guys. He's an awesome father, a great friend, and he deserves someone who is whole and happy and can love him like he deserves, not like me in this broken needy way'.
Castle didn't know what to feel. Elation at Kate's declaration of love – she loved him, she really loved him – clashed with the hurt he felt caused by 3 months of silence, then finding out that she lied and overriding everything he felt sadness that Kate – his extraordinary Kate – would ever feel less than worthy of being loved. He tried to slow down his racing mind and focus as the disembodied voices continued to talk
'But what happened Kate? Something must have caused all of this?
'It was during the bombing case –'
Castle's head snapped up at that – she knew? How could she know, no one had seen him – oh. Her voice continuing made him realize that she didn't know he had heard her.
'Castle was talking about how the case made him realize that we never have as much time as we think we do. After that summer of waiting for me to call, and then all these months - he must have decided that waiting for me was time he could not afford to waste. And I don't blame him Lanie, really, I don't. It just hurts – it hurts'
Castle felt the tears gather in his eyes and trace down his cheeks as he heard the tears in Kate's voice and he heard Lanie move closer to Kate. He hoped that she was hugging her. His empty hands clutched at the edges of his table painfully, needing to be the one offering comfort. Despite his own hurt, at that moment, he would have given anything to be the one able to hold Kate in his arms. Anything. As it was, he could only swipe at his cheeks and continue listening.
Lanie's gentle voice cut through the sound of Kate's tears. 'Sweetheart, what did happen that summer? I know I never told you this, and maybe I should have, but after you were shot, castle said something –
'I know Lanie. I know. I heard it – I never forgot.' Kate said, defeat still in her voice
'Why didn't you tell him! And why did you shut him out for 3 months then?' Lanie exclaimed
Castle couldn't help nodding his head in agreement at Lanie's questions. Here was the crux of the matter. If she really loved him, how could she do that to him? He waited, holding his breath
'At the hospital there was just so much going on. And with Josh there, and all the drugs .. i just wanted a few days to sort things out in my head. I broke it off with Josh the day after I woke up, and I swear I was going to call him – and you – when I got out of the hospital. But ... you're not going to like this Lanie.' Kate took a deep breath and continued 'They had me on some pretty strong narcs in the hospital. I was supposed to keep taking them all through the months after and through physical therapy. But with my family history, I was worried that – you know ..
Lanie's indignant voice interrupted 'Kate, you had just been through cardiothoracic surgery. You needed the strong pain killers. That's one of the more painful surgeries anyone can go through ! Don't tell me you stopped taking them'
'Not entirely.' Kate continued quietly 'I halved the dose at first, then took them only when the pain became unbearable. Don't give me that look Lanie. I know, I know it was stupid. But it was something I felt I had to do. But God, those days, those months. Some days just drifted by in a haze – those were good days. Sometimes the only thing I could do was try to lie still and hope that the pain would pass. And in those moments, the memory of castle saying he loved me over and over again – that was what I held on to. Sometimes, I swear, it was the only thing that got me through the day. And then – you're not going to like this either...Before I could see Castle, again, I had to make sure that the sniper was gone. So i called off the protective detail, and I lived my life for 2 weeks. Waiting'.
'Kate, of all the stupid things you have done ...'Lanie's angry voice cut though the silence
'I know Lanie, I know. But I could not risk that he would come back to finish the job while Castle was around. So I waited, and when nothing happened for 2 weeks, I went to see Castle.'
'Did you ever tell him any of this?'
'God no! He would either not care at all, or worse, it would hurt him. And that's the last thing I want to do. Yet it seems to be the only thing I ever do to him. So maybe this is for the best Lanie. Maybe it all worked out right in the end'
Castle couldn't breath. His lungs would not let air in. His mind raced around in panic. He had to get to her. He had to get to Kate and change her mind. He would beg, he would plead, he would not take no for an answer. Because, there was no way that things had worked out right and there was no way this could be the end. But he had to finish listening. He stood up violently, distantly heard the chair he had been sitting on fall over. He willed the tape to end so he could run out of his apartment. But he heard the tears in Lanie's voice now as spoke.
'Oh honey. What are you going to do now?
'I'll keep going Lanie' Kate replied, sobbing now. 'I'm actually rather good at this part. Getting over people I love leaving. I'll survive. Because everyone leaves. Always. Always.'
Castle hears her voice break on that final word – their word – as the tape recorder finally goes silent. He runs over to the front door, grabbing his keys and wallet as he skids to a stop to drag on a pair of shoes. He slams the door shut after him as he runs to the elevator. He has to think of a good reason for showing up at Kate's door on a weekend, half dressed. But he will, he isn't worried. Nothing can stop him now. He can't get the happy, cheek splitting smile off his face. He knows how to fix this. This past month may have been the end, but it was only the end of the beginning. The real story was yet to be written.
The end :)
I hope you enjoyed reading. Please review ! Pretty please with Caskett on top.