A/N: Forgive me because I have NO CLUE what this story is or where it came from or where (if) it's going anywhere. It's just something I wanted to get down. You decide if it goes further, but it won't hurt my feelings if this is enough. This is a character I have wanted to write, but am not so sure on his voice, yet. Hard, hard dialogue. I adore him, though. Very minor synopsis spoilers for "Headhunters", but if you've seen the preview, you're golden.
Disclaimer: If they were mine, they'd be making out. Boy, I hope they're making out regardless.
Castle wipes his palms on his thighs, takes a deep breath and opens the door to the diner. The loud bell clanging against the glass startles him a bit as he attempts to shake off his nervousness. This is ridiculous; it's just lunch. The smell of greasy goodness assaults his senses and his stomach rumbles. He glances left and right, raising his head up over some of the standing patrons, not yet finding who he's looking for.
"Rick, over here."
Castle turns towards the voice and tests his smile as he heads to a booth in the back corner. Before he slides into the black and white checkered pleather, he stands at the end of the table and stretches his arm out towards the man already seated. "Mr. Beckett. Sir." He shakes his hand, nods an additional greeting and is pretty sure he should have dried his hands off again. He's a sweaty mess. What is he, sixteen?
"It's Jim, Rick." Kate's father smiles amusingly and Castle is pretty sure he's poking fun at him a bit.
"Jim." Castle agrees to the informal name and slides to sit. "I was surprised to hear from you this morning. I know you said everything's okay, but-"
"Everything's just fine. I hope I didn't pull you away from anything too important."
"No, no. I was just…working. Great time for a break." He hopes Jim assumes that he means writing, because explaining his new gig (that's starting to feel like a perpetual hazing) with Detective Slaughter might prove awkward.
"Close to a deadline?"
"I'm pretty sure I'm near the end on this one." Not a lie. He loves how it works out when words have multiple meanings.
"Ah, good. Well, anyway, I have a favor I hope you can help me with. A friend of mine's wife is a huge fan of your books, and I told him I'd see about getting one of them signed as an anniversary gift." He pulls a well-worn copy of Heat Wave from where it had been resting on the seat beside him. "He's panicking. That many years together, you start running out of good ideas, you know?" He watches Jim's eyes light with his genuine smile and remembers how Kate's always did the same. He wonders if they still do. He hasn't seen one of those smiles in a while. May not again, if he's being honest with himself.
"Sure thing. Unique gifts are hard to come by regardless. I always appreciate a well-thought out present, and I'd be honored to help." He wiggles his fingers in invitation for Jim to hand him the novel. The heft of his own words, Kate's first words in his world, feels heavier than usual. "You should have brought more. I would have done them all."
"I'll tell him that the next few years' holidays are covered, then." He laughs his appreciation and it makes Castle feel good, useful.
As a server meanders by to drop off their ice waters and silverware with promises of service soon, Castle asks to borrow her pen. When she acquiesces, he thinks up a witty personalized message to jot down above his signature. He kind of misses that, the personalization, not just scrawling a sloppy autograph. In the earlier days of his success, the lines at book signings were a lot shorter, fans were a lot smarter (and less busty), and he got to spend more time simply interacting with his audience. Now, Paula insists he sign the front covers of books (really, who does that?) because she's done some crazy math determining how many more copies he can move through an hour. When he finishes inking an inside page for Jim's friend, the impatient waitress already has her hand out and looks at him through suspicious eyes like she's missing something, then shrugs and tucks the pen back behind her ear and saunters off. Castle scowls. "Not a fan?"
"Guess not," Jim chuckles. "Speaking of fans, you know I called Katie to see if she could ask you about the autograph." Castle stills. "I had to beg, but she agreed to scribble a little 'Nikki Heat' message too," he offers. Castle is surprised; he's pretty sure Kate would tell him where he could shove the book if he asked her to autograph one. "But she said you two haven't spoken in a couple of weeks. Imagine my surprise at that." The last part leaves his mouth slowly and too evenly, opening up the floor for Rick to give a rebuttal.
"Um, yeah. Yeah, I guess it has been a couple of weeks." It's been seventeen days, actually, but who's counting? Certainly not him.
"Why is that? If you don't mind me asking, that is."
Awkward it is, then. He thinks that Kate's dad would be a master interrogator. His voice is still soft, but his countenance a little stern. His hands are steepled on the table, fingertips tapping one another while awaiting his answer. Man, is it hot in here?
"Just a change of pace, really." Liar. "You know, a slight altered perspective." Liar. "Little bit of writer's block that I'm trying to shake." Pants on fire.
"Huh." He can tell Jim's not buying it either. He looks disappointed and Castle's not sure why that stings so much, but he just wants to blurt that it's his daughter's own damn fault.
"Did you tell Katie about the writer's block? Because I'm pretty sure she's under the impression that you're angry with her."
"I'm—I—" Shit. So, Kate's told her dad all sorts of horrid things about him? Totally not fair. Jim deserves both sides of their story. "I, actually, am angry with her." He tests the words and finds them liberating, so he surges ahead. "She lied to me."
"Lied?" He can tell by the furrow of his brow that he wasn't expecting that response. Castle has the sudden urge to bolt from the booth and high-tail it out of the diner. He's about to knock Kate off of the pedestal her father has undoubtedly placed her high upon. Hell, he had her up there recently too. "Does this have anything to do with the British fellow she was dating because—"
"Brit-Hunt? She's dating him?" He's glad this place is so packed that they haven't had a chance to order food yet. He's going to be sick. He slides his fingers up through his hair, then back down leaving the heel of his hand pressed into his right eye. "That's, um, no, that's not it. I didn't know."
"No, Rick. Forgive my word choice. Katie did assure me that they weren't dating." Jim waves his hand in dismissal, apology, but continues. "I called her several weeks ago and she was out having a drink. I was startled when it wasn't your name she used when she excused herself from him to talk to me. I just assumed you two…by now…well, anyway, she explained that you had a girlfriend and I was jumping to conclusions again." The elder man rolls his eyes a bit, seemingly exasperated at the two complicated individuals.
Yes, exasperation. Castle totally knows how he feels.
"Not a girlfriend," he corrects immediately. He wants to ask how the girlfriend thing even came up in his conversation with Kate, but doesn't. "Fun. She was fun." Jim eyes him questionably and Castle rolls the words around in his brain again and realizes they could have been misconstrued, probably were. "No, no. Not that kind of fun. I needed something different than what I have with Kate. Not that Kate and I are having that kind of fun. We've never. Well, I mean we only—and that was just once." Jim's eyebrow rises comically and Castle groans and tries jump-roping his words again. "God, not that. We've never done that. Kissed. We kissed. Once. Long time ago." He's winded as he finishes and he feels like his face is on fire, and he's pretty sure Jim's hiding some laughter. Damn it. Yep, Jim just lured a confession out of him without even trying. Smooth. He's pretty sure he just embarrassed the hell out of himself. And Kate for that matter. Serves her right. "But, no. No girlfriend." Way to keep it simple, genius.
"Thanks for the clarification. I think." He winks. "But, son, you said my daughter lied to you. What about?"
"Oh. I told her I loved her," he pauses, wondering why his words were spilling unfiltered here. He's pretty sure Kate's going to kill him if Jim ever shares any of this. Probably kill them both. There's probably some unspoken Kate Beckett rule that says he and her father aren't even allowed to share space without her presence. That same thought manifested last year when Jim came to his loft to find out what kind of danger his daughter was in. 'She cares about you, Rick.' And again as they sat side by side in cramped hospital waiting room chairs, each sharing stories of Kate—Castle wasn't sure if they were trying to make themselves feel better (it didn't help) or just pulling the memories to the forefront of their minds so they were further ingrained there(just in case). Sometimes, when he sits alone, he daydreams of him and Jim sharing a meal-similar to what they're doing right now in this small diner—only in this ex-future, he pulls out a ring for Jim's inspection and approval, and asks him for his daughter's hand in marriage.
Trying to erase that vision from his mind on top of admitting his confession of love aloud again, hurts even more than he anticipated. It reemphasizes that the future he's mapped out for himself is going to have to be marred with detours. His mother keeps wanting to talk about it, how he should move on, taste happiness, love the one he's with (he immediately put Jacinda back on a plane after that Scotch-happy conversation with his mother), and he can feel his wounded heart pounding against his chest at every mention of Kate.
"And what did she say to that?"
"Nothing?" Surprise flitters across Jim's face and Castle thinks talking about this with this man probably wasn't one of his brightest ideas. "Where does the lying come in?"
"That is the lie. She didn't say anything." He lets out a frustrated huff. "She let me believe that she didn't remember that I'd said it."
"Why wouldn't she remember?" He looks thoroughly confused, a little protective of his daughter, but a bit sympathetic towards Rick, too.
"It was when she…last summer. At Roy Montgomery's funeral."
"When she was shot."
Castle flinches when he says it, loses a breath. He hates the reminder, the memory of that day, that overwhelming grief and helplessness. "Yes, then. And she's told me for months that she didn't remember any of it. Lies." His voice is raising and he lowers it out of respect for the man sitting across from him. He's pretty sure he might cry, those thick, infuriating, girly tears of frustration that are continually begging for exodus. He hates them, swallows them back, chokes a little on the emotion. "I watched her tell a suspect that she remembered everything from that day. Not me," he whispers, done done done with this conversation. He needs to excuse himself. "Listen, I'd better be going."
"I wish you wouldn't."
"It's not fair to expect you to be unbiased here, a sounding board for my resentment. She's your daughter and you love her—"
"So do you."
"Doesn't work that way."
"I wish it did," he sighs, exhausted by this conversation.
"Listen Rick, I am biased here. But not because Katie's my daughter, but because I know how much she cares about you. She would never hurt you intentionally."
"Doesn't matter, Jim. The best intentions are fraught with disappointment. She didn't want to wound my pride, embarrass me, I get it. But, she only delayed the inevitable. I'm more humiliated now, wondering how many people figured out what I couldn't—that I was waiting for someone who had no intentions of waiting for me. She knew what I wanted and it was damned selfish of her to string me along."
"I don't think she was stringing you along, Rick."
He's taken aback at the argument, a slap in the face. "You know what? Maybe you're right. Maybe I imagined all of it, wanted it so much that I made it all up. Could be," he puffs out, resigned.
"That's not what I meant." Castle's confused eyes meet her father's encouraged ones. "I think she feels the same way." Jim pauses, and Castle can sense some hesitancy, the awkwardness of the situation maybe finally hitting him, too. Instead of backing away, Jim smiles optimistically and pats Castle's hand, where it's fisted on the table. "I'm certain Katie loves you, too."
He wants to laugh, curse this man that he cares about, whose daughter he loves. Optimism floats to the surface of his heart and he shoves it back down. He cannot do this another time. Can't. He doesn't dare let hope simmer, for he can't bear to let disappointment boil over again. "She doesn't."
"She doesn't," he insists, biting the words out a little louder than he intended. He doesn't want to disrespect this man, but he can't handle this anymore. He's quiet now, stoic. He shakes his head and meets Jim's eyes, beseeching him to let it go. "Kate doesn't love me."
"And, what exactly makes you so sure of that?" Castle is shocked at the voice and lifts wide eyes to Kate, standing tall and authoritative, intimidating (livid?), at the end of their table.
A/N: I won't mark this Complete. There might be more. But I really just wanted to write some Jim to see what happened. The verdict? You tell me. Feedback?
P.S. If there are any old-school CSI fans out there, I gave one of my favorite Gil Grissom quotes to Castle in this fic. I miss that character so much. Never thought I'd love another the same way, but I think Rick Castle has taken over. Love.