One of those ideas that just wouldn't leave me alone.
I guess I should apologize for that.
Warning: Major Character Death
Disclaimer: I don't own Castle.
He had never spent much time in the 12th precinct. He had never found a reason to. He had been the department therapist for nearly 5 years, but never before had the Captain asked to meet with him directly. Usually all it took was a piece of paper and his signature for his patients to return to work, no questions asked.
But he understood that this was an extenuating circumstance.
It was still early, so there weren't many people at the precinct yet, most of the desks empty sans for a few detectives and officers trying to get an early jump on their paperwork.
He passed the desks of Detectives Ryan and Esposito, who he had met with because of the situation as well. They looked at him with wary expressions, their eyes darting over toward the empty desk in front of the murder board before lowering their gaze.
They knew exactly why he was here.
He nodded at the men once in acknowledgment before moving past them, heading for the office door. He knocked on it softly, waiting only a moment before the person inside called him in.
He opened the door and found a woman behind the desk, organizing papers into folders and shuffling them around on the tabletop. He cleared his throat softly, still standing by the door, alerting the woman to his presence. She looked up and gestured for him to come closer to the desk before she went back to organizing her papers. When he was standing in front of the desk, she finally looked up.
"I appreciate you meeting with me in person," the woman said, reaching over the large desk and shaking his hand firmly before gesturing that he should sit down in the seat in front of the desk.
"Of course," the man said. He nodded once in thanks before sitting down, adjusting his sweater before trying to make himself as comfortable as possible.
"So, Dr. Burke," the woman said, folding her hands and placing them on the desk in front of her, "How is she?"
In any other circumstance, he might have been amused by the way Victoria Gates jumped right into the conversation, not wasting any time with small talk. But he could tell that it was just a defense. He could tell just by her eyes that she was worried, concerned even, by what answers he might have brought with him.
For all the flak Iron Gates got about her style of leadership, she really did care about her subordinates.
Burke took a deep breath.
"You can't keep this bottled up, Kate."
She sat curled up in the large chair in the office, her legs pulled up against her chest, her chin resting on her knees.
He sat in front of her in his chair, his foot resting on his knee, his hands folded in his lap, trying to make this seem as normal as possible. This was just a normal session.
Except it wasn't.
She looked up at him, and he subtly sat up straighter in his seat as he met her gaze.
He had seen the detective angry. He'd seen her upset, heartbroken even. He'd seen her confused and lost, stubborn and determined.
But he had never seen her look empty.
"As expected, Captain," he said on a breath.
"What does 'as expected' mean exactly, Dr. Burke?"
"The death of a partner is always a very challenging thing for an officer to go through. Given the circumstances regarding Mr. Castle's death, their past trauma, and their unique relationship, I think it was expected that she was going to be affected by his death."
"When you say 'circumstances', Dr., I'm assuming you mean Johanna Beckett's case?"
Burke nodded once, "That's correct."
"How so?" Gates pushed.
"They took him from me," she nearly screamed between clenched teeth. "They took my mother from me, they took my Captain, and now they've taken my partner," her voice broke, but her eyes were red and angry.
"They had no right. Why him?" Kate continued, her voice cracking as the anger faded from her eyes, leaving behind only tears, "Why not me?"
The man took a deep breath, "Johanna Beckett was one of the most important people in Detective Beckett's life and her death has held Kate back emotionally for years. Richard Castle became one of, if not the most important people in her life during the time they worked together. To lose her partner as well as her mother, not to mention her previous Captain and mentor, is going to have a very significant impact on her mental and emotional health."
"You think she feels abandoned," Gates said, trying to get to the truth without so many words.
"Kate, he didn't leave you. Your mother didn't leave you. Captain Montgomery didn't leave you. No one's left you."
He watched as the Detective shook her head, the tears still spilling down her cheeks in the dim room. He watched as she bit on the inside of her cheek, losing the battle to choke back a sob as it echoed throughout the room.
"Then why is he gone?"
"No! He's supposed to be here!" Kate said, standing up and pacing around the room. "He's supposed… to be here. With his mother… With his daughter… With…With -"
Kate stopped pacing, crossing her arms over her chest, exhaling unsteadily three times before looking back at him.
"He promised..." she said, a fresh wave of tears spilling down her cheeks. She bit the inside of her lip, furrowing her brow as she shook her head, her voice barely a whisper.
The man nodded, "I think she feels like she's lost another piece of herself. She's lost more people to violence than anyone I've ever spoken to. With her past, I think she's feeling this loss more acutely than any other loss, even that of her mother and Captain."
"Because he was her partner."
"I've been working with Detective Beckett for quite some time," he said, weighing his words carefully, "and I tried to help her through the emotions that she was dealing with, particularly involving her feelings for her partner, and in my professional opinion, he was much more than her partner."
"Kate was… is a very private person. She doesn't like to let herself be vulnerable. But she let him in. He was her partner, yes. But he was much more."
There was a brief moment of silence before Gates eyes widened slightly.
"She was in love with him."
"He's a part of you, Kate. He'll always be a part of you."
He saw her take a deep breath, physically bracing herself from something he said before sinking back into her chair and wringing her hands in her lap.
"Always," she whispered, squeezing her hands tighter together.
Burke looked at Gates almost incredulously, wondering how it was possible for the woman who worked with the two of them every day to not know. He saw Kate a couple of times at most and even he could tell that she was a woman in love. And from what he heard of her partner, he was just as in love with her.
"Yes, Captain," the man said softly, "I think she loves him more than she's ever loved anyone."
"So Dr., you're telling me that my best detective was in love with her partner?"
"No, Captain," Burke said, his voice even lower than before, "I'm telling you that your best detective is in love with her partner."
Gates narrowed her eyes slightly at the news, but otherwise said nothing.
There was a slight commotion outside of the door and both Gates and Dr. Burke looked to see what it was.
Detective Beckett was walking towards her desk down the corridor for the first time in three weeks. The officers that passed her were clapping her on the shoulder, silently offering their support as she moved further into the precinct. She nodded at the people who spoke to her but didn't make eye contact, looking down at the bag in her hand before walking slowly towards her desk. He saw her pause at the empty chair that still sat beside the desk, startling slightly as if she hadn't still expected it to be there after what happened before moving towards her seat, mechanically putting her bag on the ground and taking off her coat and hanging it over the back of her chair. She sat down at her desk, keeping her shoulders straight for a moment before letting them slump down.
Dr. Burke straightened his own shoulders, feeling the sudden need to defend his patient from her Captain.
"Captain, I can assure you that Detective Beckett never acted on her feelings for Mr. Castle. If anything it made her a much more attentive officer. She was terrified of him getting hurt."
"This is all my fault."
"Kate, you can't control the actions of others."
She was already shaking her head, "If I hadn't kept digging… If I would've just let it go…"
"You needed to do this. For yourself."
"But he didn't," she said, her voice suddenly louder, "this wasn't his job. It wasn't his life. It wasn't his life."
"You were partners, Kate. He wasn't going to leave you alone in this."
"But he should have!" Kate cried before taking a deep breath. "I was supposed to protect him."
He watched as Kate's lower jaw moved but now sound came out, like the words were trying to force themselves free but she couldn't make herself say them. She inhaled softly.
"But I killed him."
The Captain didn't need to know at how the strong detective spent her time at the precinct in fear. She didn't need to know that Kate was constantly worried that Gates would just kick Richard Castle out of the precinct and she would never speak to him again, no matter how ridiculous he believed that outcome would be. The Captain didn't need to know about her anxiety with her partner going into dangerous situations with her, didn't need to know about her jealousy or envy that had taken a hold of her heart during the time he had known her. And she certainly didn't need to know about the number of tears she'd cried over the man, all the times she's had to put herself back together because of this man.
It was none of her business.
He tried to keep his distance from his clients. It was what was considered professional. He was her therapist and she was his patient. But he really did care for Kate. He caved as soon as he realized she was Richard Castle's Nikki Heat and read Heat Wave, and he could see what the writer saw in the detective. She was beautiful and she was smart, and she was strong. A little broken, yes. Quite guarded, yes. But he knew he could help her. He wanted to help her. He had helped her through getting shot. He knew he could help her get past this wall she had inside of herself.
She had been forced to come to him after she was shot. But she came back to him willingly when she knew she couldn't do it alone. She trusted him to be able to help her and for her, a woman who had gone through more than her fair share of betrayal and heartbreak, to trust him, no matter what his profession or title? That touched him.
They were close. He saw her breaking down a little more every time she met with him. She dressed lighter, left her hair down more. He could tell she was eating more, wearing less make-up, putting the pieces of herself back together. She was more open, and he could tell she was almost ready. Almost ready to tear down the last few stones of that wall around her heart, take his hand, and pull him over the rubble, finally letting him inside.
And she didn't get the chance.
"So Dr. Burke," the Captain's voice interrupted his thoughts, "How long do you think it will take to get my best detective back on her feet?"
"I never told him," the words are whispered, almost like she's ashamed of it.
"Never told him what, Kate?"
She lifted a hand to her hair, trying to push it back from her face. When it wouldn't stay, she curled up further into herself, trapping her hand between her heart and her knees.
"I love him," she said, again, the words just as quiet as before, "I love him and I never told him."
She looked at him, her eyes watering again, "Do you think he knew?"
Dr. Burke looked out of the Captain's office to look at the detective in question. She was still sitting at her desk, Detectives Ryan and Esposito standing in front of her, informing her of what she missed during her mandated absence. She was staring at them attentively, her cheekbones cutting sharp angles under her skin, the dark circles under her eyes still visible even underneath all of her make-up, her hair pulled back tightly in a bun at the base of her neck.
The other detectives didn't look much better. Detective Esposito looked stockier, his shirt a little tighter around his torso like he had been working out more, getting his frustrations and emotions out at the gym rather than facing them. Detective Ryan, on the other hand, looked skinnier, his pants bunching at the waist where his belt was cinched tighter than normal, the buttons of his vest not lying flat against his stomach.
They were all taking the writer's death hard.
The other two detectives walked away and she lowered her gaze back down to her paperwork, but she didn't make any move to actually do it. He watched her shoulders slump underneath her now too big blouse, watched her head droop slightly, her strong façade crumpling into pieces right in front of him.
It was then that he noticed her hands were moving. He focused in on her fingers, his eyes narrowing at he tried to figure out what she was playing with.
It was a toy, those Russian nesting dolls that kids always wanted to buy because they were so fascinated that there could be yet another doll hidden inside the one they just opened. She was absentmindedly placing them between the spaces of her fingers, opening and shutting them slowly, big to small, small to big, big to small.
"Kate, it's okay to miss him."
She looked up at him with a sad smile, her desperation falling from her eyes.
"I thought you said he wasn't gone..."
"He's dead, Kate," he said, keeping his voice gentle, "You have to accept that to start moving on."
The two of them sat in silence, Kate crying silently, her bottom lip quivering.
Her voice was so quiet he thought he might have been imagining it.
"What if I don't want to move on?"
Dr. Burke felt his eyes soften in sympathy for a moment before he straightened out his features, turning to look back at Captain Gates.
"In my professional opinion, Captain, I don't think she'll ever be the same."
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