"Do you have a place to stay?" he rasps, watching with bleary eyes as she shoves a few more sweaters into her black duffel bag. He catches a flash of brown Angora, the one he bought her for their first Christmas together because he knew it'd bring out her eyes. She always looks so soft in it, simple and gorgeous.
He blinks away the memory, watching as her face hardens. "Does it really matter?"
"Of course it matters," he growls, fisting the comforter of their—his bed in his hand. "I need to make sure that you're at least safe."
She snorts. "You're a real piece of work." She stomps to the bathroom that they used to share, bag in hand, and whips the medicine cabinet open, tossing anything and everything into it.
"Just answer the damn question, Kate."
She heaves a sigh, her body curving over the sink as her hair hangs over her face. He shoves his hands under his legs to keep from going to her and crashing her into his body, lips against her head, arms around her waist.
But she chose this, no matter what she says.
He watches, his breathing turning shallow as her left hand wraps around her neck, her fingers kneading the tension. Her ring glints under the light as her fingers work over her muscles. He swallows hard, wonders if this is the last time he'll see it on her finger.
"There's an opening in my old building," she says quietly.
His body relaxes a little under the relief. Maybe he can sleep a little easier knowing that she's under as much protection as she'll give herself.
Maybe he can sleep a little easier. Yeah, right.
He scrubs a hand down in his face, willing the tears and the exhaustion away until he's alone in the dark, wrapped around the pillow that will still smell like her when she's gone.
God, he's pathetic.
He leaves her alone in the harsh light of the room, under a flickering bulb that they'd once deemed romantic while they were buried under the covers loving each other. He can't bring himself to watch as she removes the last parts of her from their bedroom.
From his life.
He pads into the kitchen, his feet bare and cold against the floor. His stomach grumbles and he should probably scrounge up something to eat, but his whole body wracks with nausea.
He grabs a glass of water and settles down onto a stool, breathing deeply through his nose. He should find his phone since he promised Alexis he'd check in today and it's almost seven o'clock. But then she'll want to talk to him on the phone and he knows he's not up for that. He'll try his best to disguise his voice and fail miserably, all the while guilt-tripping her into coming home to be with him. She'd been worried about him, rightfully so, and he knows that he won't be able to convince her to stay at school.
And if he can't have Kate, he'd rather be alone to mourn the end of his marriage.
He sips his water, wincing as it hits his hoarse, aching throat. The fights, the bitterness, and the tears echo through his head and his eyes swim under the weight of it all.
We can't do this anymore.
I'll always love you.
You're not the person I married.
I'm moving out.
His fingers scrape harshly against the island, his head pounding furiously. He doesn't know how it got this bad, how they've reached this point, yet every argument and act of desperation is seared into his brain, sharp and clear.
His hand slams against the glass in front of him and he relishes the way it shatters against the wall and onto the floor. In his stupor, he remembers that he isn't alone and blindly reaches for the broken pieces.
"What the hell, Rick?"
He cranes his neck to find her nostrils flaring, hands on her hips. And then he's gasping in pain as the glass cuts his skin, a consequence of his lack of attention.
"Jesus," she mutters as she reaches for him. Her hand circles his wrist and her palm is almost warm, but her fingers are cold and sharp under the weight she's lost. She leads him to the sink, a gentle hand pressed against his shoulder.
She turns the faucet on, averting her gaze from his. She lets out a breath, pushes his injured hand under the running water. He winces and her eyes find his, haunted and empty.
"You can't do this," she says hoarsely. "I can't be worried about you on top of…" she trails off and he feels the anger flare inside of him.
"On top of what, Kate?" he bites out.
"Everything else," she finishes flatly, swimming away from his bait. He isn't done, not by a long shot, but then she's mumbling under her breath about getting something for his hand. She leaves him there, the cold water sluicing painfully over his cut.
She's back in a matter of seconds with a bandage and some peroxide. She shuts off the water and takes his hand in both of hers, her touch light and soft. She dabs a pit of peroxide onto a cotton ball and presses it against his wound. He inhales sharply and her scent wafts through his nose. His heart contracts painfully as his eyes brim with tears, from the pain or her, he isn't sure.
As her fingers nimbly wrap the gauze around his hand, his memory flashes back to the first time she's done this for him, in the back of an ambulance after he punched Lockwood.
How far they've come since then and yet some things have remained the same.
Her fingers graze the inside of his wrist, where his pulse thrums through his body.
And then she's done, hands dropped at her side. And he misses her, doesn't think, just acts as one of his hands finds her waist and his other hand trembles a little against her head, clutching her cheek.
"Castle," she warns, her voice breaking as he pulls her to him. His last name on her lips anchors her to him in all the ways that it used to and for a minute he can pretend that everything will be all right.
His mouth hovers in the lightest of touches against her forehead, a whisper of a kiss. Her hands fist his tee shirt in a vice grip, hard and desperate. He hears her deep, harsh breaths over the low hum of the icemaker. Her tears are hot and wet against his shirt, sinking into his heart.
He can't take it anymore. His hands fumble against the side of her face, clumsily forcing her head up. The pit of his stomach bottoms out at the wrenching pain he finds in her eyes. He closes his eyes against it and blindly presses his mouth hotly to hers.
It's harsh, biting, and all wrong, but he needs her, any part of her. Her body stiffens and he feels her hands push against his chest at first, protesting. But then his mouth finds that spot at her neck, the one that makes her sag against his body. She lets out a shaky sigh as her fingers curl around his neck, giving him a free pass for now.
His hands slip under her sweatshirt, canting her body further into his. He groans against her clavicle as her nails scrape against his head in a frenzy. He spins them and crashes them into the island, rolling his body into hers. She lets out a deep moan as her teeth find his ear, nipping harshly.
Oh. The need is overwhelming now, swallows him whole. He wants her under him, naked and writhing one last time before he lets her go forever.
He bunches her sweatshirt in his hands, sliding it up over her thin frame. She breaks from him on a gasp as he whips it over her head, tossing it onto the floor. And then her mouth is on his again, tugging at his lips as her hands roam his body, fingers scraping against his skin. Her mouth is salty and warm and God, she's still crying.
But when her palm slides easily down his face, he knows she's not alone.
"It doesn't have to be this way," she whispers against his skin. She nuzzles against his neck in a gesture of love. And oh, he wants to hope. He wants to hope so badly.
"Has your decision changed?" he asks, bracing himself against the words he knows are coming.
"You know it hasn't."
And then he's removing her hands from his body and stepping away from her, shaking his head.
"It takes two people to end a marriage, Rick," she bites, smoothing her fingers over her swollen lips.
"You made this decision, Kate. Not me."
"That's not fair and you know it."
He lets out a harsh, deprecating laugh. "What part of this is fair?" He presses his palm against his head in frustration and it's the same damn argument over and over.
"You tell me," she starts, eyes flashing, "What kind of a man asks his wife to choose between him and her mother?"
"If you think that's what I'm asking of you, then you're not the woman I fell in love with," he says quietly, his heart ripping to shreds as the words fall from his mouth.
Her mouth closes, any readied retort dead on her lips. Her spine stiffens as she stares at him for a moment, cold and weary.
And he feels the last part of him die as she walks out of their home together, slamming the door shut behind her.
I promise not to shatter your hearts completely. Good stuff, too.