I'm tired of this dance, and really not liking what it's doing to the characters. So, I'm fixing things before this week's ep can do any further damage.


He's not supposed to care.

It's something he has to remind himself of now, all the time. Don't stand too close. Don't look her in the eyes. Don't let her confusion break in, break you down. Don't love her. Don't care.

He can do don't care, he's been doing that one all his life.

And then there's things like this, like following Esposito into the break room at 9am, only to find Beckett dead asleep on the couch, still in...is that yesterday's clothes? Or the day before? He hasn't been noticing because he's not supposed to care.

Eggerston and Vasquez are there, talking in soft voices, trying to make coffee without too much clinking of cups and pot. They're not using the espresso machine, far too loud. They don't seem either annoyed or surprised, as if it's perfectly normal to come to work and find Beckett asleep on the couch. They just nod at the two newcomers and leave, the soles of their shoes barely making a sound.

He can't look her in the eyes, but he can look at her now, crashed out in an ungainly tangle of arms and legs, like a doll someone got bored with and tossed aside. Some rich, spoiled, little-

Him.

Castle turns to check on Esposito, but he's gone too, and suddenly he realises that's exactly what this is all about. Delivering the spoiled child to the mess he's created with a silent order to clean it up. The trouble is, he can't. It's taken three and a half years to admit it, but he can't fix Kate Beckett. She's not going to let him, and she's not going to do it herself. And he...he was not cut out to be moon to someone else's planet. He likes being the orbital center, he likes to shine.

Though okay, maybe he cares just a little that her skin is like paste beneath the fake, heavy lashes, that her cheek and her jaw are still too sharp, and her hips and knees and elbows and shoulders all have the same hard angles. Nikki Heat wouldn't lie here looking cold and pathetic, she'd tell Rook to go fuck off and stride into the interrogation room and pin her suspect to the wall. And Rook would indeed go fuck off, he'd get on a plane and go interview Bono in Tahiti, or hide out on Branson's island, taking baths in the open air with half a dozen debs hanging on his every word, and maybe hanging on his other parts as well. Instead of standing in a windowless room in a run-down police station gently laying his coat over the woman who broke his heart.

She stirs at the weight, curls closer in, dragging the collar of his coat up to her face like a blanket. The tension in her face softens, and he realises what a mistake he's just made, how much of himself he's just given away. And it's too late to get his coat back. Too late to back away, to avoid her eyes, slowly opening.

'Castle.' Her voice is nearly inaudible, cracked with fatigue. She sits up slowly, still clutching his coat, looks around as if she can't remember where she is or why she's here. He wants to run, but he's frozen solid where he stands, not a thought in his head except how much he still wants her, how beautiful she is to him, even like this, even not loving him. In his head, Nikki always walks away from Rook, and she will now for good, because this is the end, this is the last book of his contract and there's no point going on.

She's not Nikki Heat. He can't make Kate Beckett love him the way he made Nikki love Rook.

It's a simple thought, even kind of stupid. Of course she's not Nikki Heat, he knows that. And he's not Jameson Rook. Yes, she's broken, but he is too. Isn't that why he writes? To fix the world, to make it something he can live in. So he wrote a book to fix her, fix himself, his boredom and loneliness, to fix them both. And another and another, but they're not characters in a book so they've stayed broken. And he is - now he realises, with a sickness that unlocks his knees and sinks him to her level - he is angry at her for not being Nikki Heat. For not being something he can fix with his love.

She's still clutching his coat like it's protection of some kind, her eyes dark and red-rimmed. 'You heard me say I heard you,' she whispers.

'It's taken you all week-'

'I think I didn't want to figure it out.' She sighs so deeply her breath ruffles the top of his hair. 'Oh, Castle. Why didn't you just say something?'

Anger flares through him, but he's in an awkward position, squatting like this, and he can't stand up without leaning over to push off from the couch. Which would be entirely too close. 'Why didn't you? Why didn't you just tell me on the swings that day?'

'I did tell you. I thought you understood.' There's that frown between her eyebrows that always appears when she's honestly perplexed. She reaches out and puts a hand on his knee. Steadying him, he realises. And holding him to her, the warmth that flows from her, all out of proportion to the thin fingers spread across his jeans. 'Castle. Look at me.'

He doesn't want to look. Doesn't want to see. Doesn't want to be here anymore with his calf muscles ripping, and his heart about to shatter, and his hands clutching at his coat to keep from clutching at her, strangling her with his stupid, stupid need.

'I'm not doing this right,' she says, softly. 'This is why I asked you to wait, why I didn't-'

Her voice chokes off, and against his will he looks. And sees those eyes he loves, huge and soft and glassy with tears. 'I didn't want to wreck us before we even started,' she whispers. 'And somehow I did that anyway.'

'You didn't,' he says quickly, unable to help himself.

'I did. I should have said, I should have-' A single tear falls, mesmerising him as it slides over that too-sharp cheek and falls into space. 'I didn't want to come to you still broken. I thought it wasn't fair. To hold you to it. To hold onto you until I was ready when I didn't know how long that was going to take.'

'I wouldn't have cared. I would have waited forever.'

The hand on his knee clenches and disappears, becomes a hand against his face, stroking his cheek. 'You shouldn't have to wait. You should find someone better.'

'I want you.' He presses his own hand against hers, holding her there. 'For better or worse, I want you.'

'Castle...'

'Don't say you're broken. Everybody's broken. I'm a jerk, you're an idiot, so fine. Fix me. And I'll fix you.' He's on his knees now, so close he can smell the sleep and the sweat, see the flush of blood flowing back into her cheeks. 'I know it's your first time and you're scared. Well, it's my first time too, and my track record sucks, and we're probably always going to fight over stupid things like we're doing right now, but I'm as broken as you are and the only one who can put me back together is you.'

She's as serious as he's ever seen her, eyes roving over his face like she's checking for the cracks. Checking for the joke, the hidden punch line, the tell that reveals his story is fascinating, but not remotely true.

'This can't be your first time,' she says, with something like reproach.

'Kyra went to London to find herself, Meredith found herself a hot director, Gina just got sick of me and walked out.' Her other hand is on the other side of his face now and he covers that hand as well, stopping her from stroking his cheek. The sympathy hiding in the darkness of her eyes is almost too much to bear. 'It's pathetic, yes, I know.'

'It's not.'

'It is, but the point is that I never went after any of them. I thought I loved them, but I let them go.' He waits for her to swallow that down, to breathe and meet his eyes again. 'I keep trying to let you go. You say you need space, and I give it to you. You get angry and say we're done, so I try to walk away. I even write Rook out of Nikki's life so I can let you go, but it kills me every time, Kate. It killed me the first time, and it killed me this summer, which I know you're not ready to talk about.' A quick flick of her eyes affirms that is definitely true. 'But you are the first woman I can't let go of, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I want to let go of you.'

'But is that really love?'

It's a question she's asking herself as much as him, so he tries to answer it as her. 'You said you wanted to be there for someone who would be there for you, to dive into it together. Isn't that just another way of saying you want someone who won't let you go?'

She breathes in a soft rush of surprised air, as if she's never thought of that, as if really-

'Kate...I think the only question is, do you want me to be that someone?'

He holds his breath as her eyes widen and she freezes. Deer, meet headlights. Castle, meet cliff. Have a nice trip, see you next fall.

And then she's pulling him closer, and her mouth is warm, opening on a word she doesn't need to speak after all, and he finds that everything else - all the anger, all the fear, all the crushing weight of rejection - melts away at the first taste of her as his.

His.

Oh god, they really are, finally, absolutely going to do this.

In the middle of the-

They come to their senses at almost the same moment, gasping for air with their foreheads pressed together. It's not the only thing that's pressed together; somehow her knees have parted and he's gotten right up close and very very personal. And they're in the middle of the precinct. Literally, right in the middle, in a glass-walled box with doors in all four directions. They both glance up, expecting to find an audience, but there's no one there. The blinds are closed, Esposito must have done that when he came in to work and found his boss had never left.

They look at each other again and Castle finds his face stretching into a ridiculous smile. 'I think there should have been applause.'

'Fireworks.'

'Headlines on CNN.'

She laughs softly and kisses him again. 'I can do candles and dinner.'

'We could do that instead.' He uses her knees to lever himself to his feet. 'Look, you're here for me already.'

'I am.' She stands as well, steps closer, taking him by the lapels and looking him carefully in the eyes. 'I can't promise I'm not still a stupid, broken mess that only I can really fix.'

'That's okay. I can't promise I don't sometimes have an insecure teenager who won't listen to reason taking control of my head.'

'But I want to be here,' she says seriously, refusing to let him joke it away. 'I don't know how good I'm going to be at this right now. But I can promise that even if I freak out and run away, I will come back. You don't have to follow, and you don't have to let go. I will always come back to you.'

He swallows down the witty retort about how good she looks walking away, lets her gravity flow into him, calm him. Ground him. Something else only she has ever been able to do, make him feel as if he's truly in the world, feet on the ground, instead of floating behind glass, noting everything down. 'I'll always be right here,' he says softly. And then, because he is still who he is and serious still unnerves him a little, he adds, 'and if you wouldn't mind being here just a little closer right now, I think my knees are both dead.'

She laughs, letting the moment break, comes to nestle herself under his arm. 'Sit down, old man, and let me make you some coffee while you recover,' she says, guiding him into a chair and pressing him into it with a brief kiss.

'I love it when you order me around.'

She rolls an eye over her shoulder as she plants herself to do battle with the espresso machine, and he feels that ridiculous, besotted smile stretching over his face again.

They're going to be disgusting. Like Ryan and Jenny, only worse.

It's all he can do not to rub his hands together, just thinking about it.