Salt Water

Take me to the breaking of a beautiful dawn
Take me to the place where we came from
Take me to the end so I can see the start
There's only one way to mend a broken heart.

Take me to the place where I don't feel so small
Take me where I don't need to stand so tall
Take me to the edge so I can fall apart
There's only one way to mend a broken heart.

- Beautiful Dawn, The Wailin' Jennys

She's a mess. A complete, total, all-encompassing mess. She thought she was a mess last summer and the fall after it and even these past months in the spring.

But she was wrong.

*Now* she's a mess.

Because someone who was a real mess would show up at his doorstep at nearly two a.m. wearing her pajamas, hair in a tangled, curling ponytail from a quick shower after a run that did nothing to clear her head, sweat still clinging to her skin, holding just her wallet. Normal people didn't do this. At least, not people who had their lives in order.

"Beckett, what're you – " he starts after swinging the door open. He's just as unprepared in soft-worn flannel pants and a loose t-shirt and sleep-rumbled hair.

"I need to leave. Now." There's an edge of desperation in her voice that he can't turn away from. "Please," she adds on a breath.

She watches him hesitate, blinking in confusion. With each moment, she feels the ball of fear and grief in her throat grow. Not on the entire ride over from her apartment did she think he'd refuse her but the sliver of doubt creeps under her skin as she searches his eyes.

"Uh, okay." He steps back, nodding his head into the apartment. "Let me grab some things and we can go…"

Castle disappears into his bedroom leaving her in the front hallway. The loft is bathed in soft moonlight, barely peeking through the skyline of SoHo, and she can make out the glow of the lightsabers he hadn't turned off tossed onto the couch in the living room. It makes her smile, a subtle turn of her lips, as she turns her wallet over in her hands.

"Where are we going exactly?"

She spins around, finding him in the shadows. Dressed now, in jeans and a dark sweater, holding a small bag in one hand. "I don't know," she sighs. "Somewhere not here. I don't really care where."

"You got any bags or anything?"

"No. I just…" She takes a shuddering breath, moving back toward the door. "I need to leave the city."

He drops the duffel in the doorway, heading into the kitchen. "Let me leave Alexis and Mother a note." Castle scribbles something onto a piece of paper ripped from a magnetic notepad on the fridge, sliding it to the center of the kitchen counter. "No idea where you need to be?"

"Not a clue. Away."

Castle snags a key ring from a board of miniature hooks over the entryway table. "Okay. Come on, Beckett."

She's quiet as he presses the button for the garage of the building, leaning into the corner of the elevator with her eyes closed. Kate can feel his eyes on her, studying her for a hint of what's wrong. Too busy trying to hold herself together with masking tape and a prayer to care about him hovering.

He takes her wrist, gently circling the thin bone and skin, and pulls her toward the left. "This way," he says softly, voice echoing anyway in the cement garage.

It's not the Ferrari but a charcoal grey sedan that he steers her toward. She's thankful for the unobtrusive car as she opens the passenger door and slips into the seat. The leather is warm against her thighs and back and feet as she curls her knees up toward her chest. Kate rests her cheek on the top of her knee, watching as Castle starts the car and pulls out of the spot.

"Where're we going?" she murmurs, eyes drifting shut as her body moves towards shutting down from the weight of her emotions.

"Out of the city," he answers, leaving the radio on the classical channel, playing a menuett Bach's G major cello suite. He glances over at her and she can tell he wants to touch her, to brush her hair back from curtaining her eyes. "Go to sleep, Kate."

"Can't." Won't.

She fights off sleep for the first two hours, staring out the windows of the sedan as the skyscrapers and graffiti'ed buildings of Manhattan fade into family homes of the suburbs before seeing signs pointing the way to the beaches. Then her feet slide off the seat and she curls into the side of the seat, head on the door. Giving into fatigue.

Her eyes open when the quiet rumbling of the engine below her feet cuts off. The gravel of the driveway crunches under his shoes as he rounds the car, opening her door.

"You good to walk or do I need to carry you?"

"No, I'm okay," she says, taking his hand to get out of the seat. "Is this…?"

"Welcome to the Hamptons, Kate." His voice is muffled as he ducks back into the car for his duffel.

The house is white with pale blue shutters. She can see the porch out back, the same one he showed her a photo of years ago when he tried to convince her to come out here for the summer. It's not as big as she thought it would be; it blends in with the neighboring houses in a way she didn't think he'd settle for. Ocean waves crash on the shore, a dull roar in her ears.

Not a single car horn or siren or yelling pedestrians.

Not a single memory of days in the park or Temptation Lane reruns on the couch or too many murder cases.

Good. It's good.

"Let's go inside," Castle says, placing a hand on the small of her back and guiding her across the driveway to the front door.

She toes off the ballet flats in the entranceway, trying not to gawk. A wide staircase curves up to her left, leaving the right open in a living room. There's a gathering of couches and arm chairs around a fireplace, a wall of bookshelves. A set of French doors leads out to the porch, the sun peeking in the corner of the glass, shimmering along the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

"I don't know what you want to do but, I mean, there's probably some food in the kitchen if you wanted to eat even though it's, like, five in the morning," he rambles, moving past her into the living room and tossing the bag onto one of the tan couches.

Kate pulls the sleeves of the hoodie down over her palms, sneaking her pinkie into the hole in the cuff. Her toes curl against the soft carpet, eyes not meeting his over the distance. "I don't…"

"I know. You don't know what you want. But whenever you figure it out, you've got it."

The tears that she had been holding back push at her lids but she keeps them at bay. That sweet, caring man. "Thank you, Castle." He shifts, heading toward the stairs but Kate catches his arm. "Seriously." She boosts up on her toetips and brushes a kiss over his cheek. "Thank you."

Castle goes upstairs and Kate walks out onto the porch. The breeze tugs at her hair and she can taste the salt in the air. There's a swinging bench on the right, twin Adirondack chairs facing the shore on the other side of the deck. Barefoot, the grass scratches at the arches of her feet as she wanders out onto the lawn that dips down to the beach. But she doesn't step into the sand, staying on the edge with the shrubs. There are little pink flowers spotting the neutrals of the reeds and she leans forward to pick one from the thin branch. Crossing her arms over her knees, Kate rests her chin on her forearms, the pink flower twirling between her fingers.

The sun is turning the water red and gold. She wants to dip her toes into the colors, let them seep into her skin and warm her from the inside out.

She turns her head enough to see the porch. He's sitting on the swinging bench, head tilted to the side. Watching over her. Usually the white-knight complex annoys her. In him, it's comforting, like pulling her favorite blanket around her shoulders and knowing nothing can get to her through the soft fabric.

So this is good. It's okay.

Even if she's not either of those yet.