Title: Waiting for More
Disclaimer: I do not own what is owned by others. I do have some fried rice with me, at the moment, but am stumped on how to share that.
Summary: After nine years of marriage, Rick Castle finally has to get out. But when the daughter of an old friend comes into his life, he starts to find a reason to work for more. AU
Richard Castle, noted author of the Derrick Storm series, leaned back in one of the guest chairs of his lawyer's office, let his head lull so that he was staring at the ceiling. He'd made an appointment with her a few days ago, but now that he was there, he had no idea how to proceed.
"Rick, it helps if you talk."
He pulled his head up, looked across the desk at his lawyer. She was a tall woman, in the later half of her fifties, but looked ten years younger. She had black hair with just the slightest wave to it, and a tendency to sit straight backed and proud in a way that would have seemed severe, if not for the constant kind smile on her face. He'd known Johanna Beckett for nearly five years, ever since he'd hired her husband to handle his contracts with his editors, various movie producers, trade paperback publishers, and the like. He liked both of the Becketts, found them to be warm, trustworthy, good people. Exactly what you wanted to have in your corner.
That said, he still never wanted to have to hire Johanna.
"Sorry, Jo. It's all starting to hit me what I'm doing."
"Just start at the beginning, Rick."
Rick huffed, sat up straighter. "I need a divorce."
"I assumed that when you asked for me instead of Jim, but... I don't think I can help you."
"Why? Why not? Did you stop being a divorce lawyer recently?"
"Rick... I do family law, yes, which sadly is mostly divorce, but... yours is a special case. You are rich, decently famous. This is going to be all over the press, and knowing Meredith, she's going to spend a pretty penny hiring the best attorney she can find. The stuff I'm used to is ... smaller. I'd be out of my depth. But I can recommend some people."
"Jo... you and Jim... you're some of the smartest people I've met. And, besides, I trust you. If you need to go to someone for help or give advice, hire them and bill me. I want to hire someone who knows me, knows Alexis, cares about us, and I think you do."
"Rick, I adore you and Alexis both, you know that. That's why I'm recommending this. If it's just me, you'll get fleeced."
"I don't care about getting fleeced. I'll write more books, or something. I don't care. I just need Alexis."
"Jo," he said, hating how his voice was breaking, but unable to stop himself. "Please."
He watched as her resolve crumbled. She sighed, held out her hand.
"You have a dollar?"
He reached into his pocket, pulled out some crumpled bills, handed her one.
"Fine, I'm your lawyer. Now tell me what's going on. Start from the beginning."
"You know most of it."
She pulled out a fresh legal pad. "Yes. And I feel guilty for pushing you to try and work it out before. But, this time is for the record, Mr. Castle."
He nodded, knowing she was using his full name to get him going. He scrubbed his face with his hands, stood up, started pacing in the little room.
"I started seeing Meredith right after college. I'd just published my first book, had sold my second, and was starting to get enough notoriety to get invited to important parties. Meredith was the hot new thing on Broadway at the time, hot as hell and ... fun. Easy. Just what I'd been looking for at the time. I don't know how long it would have lasted if, well, if she hadn't gotten pregnant, but she did and I proposed and ... all of a sudden, I'm married and about to be a dad, thinking I had it all figured out and really had none of it."
He stopped, looked out the 16th floor window for a minute.
"Meredith started cheating on me about six months after Alexis was born. It ... it killed me at first. I tried to hang on, tried to keep her interested, tried to keep her around. Did stupid crap, even got arrested once. But, after awhile, it got too hard, trying to be Alexis's Dad and the crazy guy that Meredith wanted. So I gave up, let her have her affairs."
"And why didn't you divorce her then?"
"I don't know. I didn't want to give up. Wanted Alexis to still have a mother. I ... I fell out of love with her at some point, I guess... so, well, it hurt, but not as much. At least, not so much that I couldn't take it. Had too much to worry about, trying to be Alexis's mom and dad at the same time anyway. And, like you said, I'm famous. It would be plastered across every paper. I know what you were saying. I've always known, when we got divorced, that it would be ugly. But, now..." he said, shaking his head.
"What happened that changed your mind?"
"Meredith moved out about eighteen ... twenty? ... months ago. Alexis and I didn't really even notice that much, it wasn't like she was home all that often by then anyway. She'd come back around, every so often, when she thought some sort of mother-daughter activity would be fun. For the most part, no big deal. Until a week ago."
"What happened a week ago?"
"She took Alexis to Paris."
"I don't follow."
"I came home last week. I'd been at a meeting with my publisher. They... they weren't there. My babysitter told me that Meredith had showed up, taken Alexis out. Meredith had decided she wanted to go to some restaurant in Paris, so she took Alexis with her. It took me hours to get her on the phone, find out what happened. I called the police, was frantic."
He paused, took a deep breath. Johanna went to speak, but he held up his hand. "It gets worse. They got back late a day after that. Alexis was ... it took hours to get the story out of her. Alexis, she... she gets motion sickness, so when we take the car or a plane, I always get her to chew gum, play games, do things to distract her. Meredith though - they were in first class, so Meredith figured that was as good as having a nanny, right? So she took an Ambien and a Mimosa and crashed for 6 hours. Alexis was nauseated the whole time, was crying and throwing up, I guess. Eventually the stewardess woke Meredith up, tried to get her to take care of Alexis, but Meredith just gave the woman a hundred bucks, went back to sleep. When they got to Paris, Meredith woke up, got mad at Alexis for having thrown up on her shirt... she's nine, for God's sake ... it doesn't get better from there... but you get the idea."
Johanna sat back in her chair, "Rick... I'm sorry."
"She's cheated on me for years, Jo... but a girl has to have a mother, right? I mean, it was ... well, it wasn't worth it, wasn't easy to deal with, but if it meant Alexis got to have two parents, then that's important, right? But Meredith doesn't want to be a mother. Never wanted to be a mother. Won't be a mother. And maybe it's better if she's not ... I mean, if we get a divorce, I can get full custody, can legally keep Meredith from screwing Alexis over. Right?"
"That's what I meant when I said I need Alexis. I don't care what the rest of the terms are, but I need full custody of Alexis. Meredith... it's hard to say this... she's not a bad person. I mean, she's not mean or cruel, she just doesn't care about other people. Doesn't want to be a mother, except for when it's fun. I don't even want to prevent her from seeing Alexis, I just need... I need a legal way to protect Alexis from Meredith's indifference. I need a way to make sure something like last week never happens again."
Johanna waited a minute, let Rick run out of steam. She stood up, went over and sat next to him on the couch. "Rick... I'll... I'll do everything I can to make that happen, but Meredith is going to fight you. You know her better than I do, but I know that. You need to prepare yourself for that."
"Okay," he said, staring off into space. "So what happens now?"
"I'll prepare the paperwork and notify Meredith. Have you talked to Meredith about this, let her know you're going to do this?"
"I did, yeah. I don't think she understood what it meant, but I did talk to her."
"Well, she'll probably take a few days, retain a lawyer who will then contact me. It'll be in everyone's best interest to try to get this done out of court, so we'll try to get most of this done in mediation. You'll need to figure out what you're willing to offer her, what you're willing to live with."
"Full custody, Jo. That's it."
"Well, be that as it may, you will still need to eat. So will Alexis. So we can't just offer her everything."
"Talk to Jim. I don't really... I'll be honest, I don't know half of my finances as well as I should. You and Jim could probably rob me blind and I'd never know. Let him figure out what I can afford, offer her as much as we can to make this end quickly."
"Do you have a pre-nuptial agreement?"
He laughed. "I was twenty-three, and we were getting married because she got pregnant. I wasn't really thinking straight in the first place, certainly not enough to worry about money. We were going to last forever..." He trailed off, laughed again, though there was no humor in it. "Sorry, no pre-nup."
"Rick, I know it doesn't feel like this now, but it will all work out. It will be fine, in the end."
"I hope so, Jo. I always wanted what you and Jim have. Figured one marriage would be it for me. Even after all these years... maybe some stupid part of me figured this would all fix itself..." He shook his head. "I'll... when this is all over, I'll believe you. I promise."
Johanna gave him a comforting pat on the thigh. "Good. We're going to have a lot more to cover, but that's enough for today. I'll draw up the papers tomorrow. We can meet this time next Wednesday, unless I hear from Meredith's lawyer before then."
"Can I just sit here for a second? This is draining," he said with a lopsided smile.
She chuckled, "Sure, Rick. I won't even charge you."
"Jo, tell me something good. Something positive. Has that daughter of yours made Commissioner yet?"
"Very subtle change of subject there, Rick, and no. Though she did just make detective."
He smiled, seeing the way she lit up, talking about her daughter. He's a proud parent himself, could certainly approve.
"You could finally meet her," Johanna continued. "She's coming by soon."
"As much as I'd like to fill my life up with as many Becketts as possible, I'm thinking that I'm not really in the best frame of mind to be meeting people right now. I think I'll go."
He stood up, gave Johanna's shoulder a slight squeeze, like she was the one needing comforting, and left her office.
Exhausted as he was, Rick decided he needed some coffee to get through the rest of the day, so he ducked into the little coffeeshop off the lobby of Johanna's building. He'd been in the place about a dozen times over the years, grabbing something before his early meetings with Jim. He liked the atmosphere and the good coffee.
Standing in line, he needed a distraction, so he played his normal game of creating stories for the other patrons. The old man with frazzled white hair in front of him was obviously a tenured NYU professor, who'd once had a scandalous affair with a French Graduate Student in his youth. The two women at one of the small tables were sisters, who had once dated the same man, until he'd fallen in love with the third sister.
The woman at the counter, ordering a soy latte with vanilla was ... actually, he had no idea what she was. She was a mystery, that's what she was. Well dressed, but the four-inch heels and leather jacket meant she wasn't a lawyer or someone from Wall Street. They were too far from the art galleries or the garment district, and for some reason he doubted she worked in either of those fields anyway.
He watched her as she took her drink over to the prep station, adding cream and sugar. She was elegant, graceful in her movements, and he figured she must have had training in dance or something at some point her in life. She was too tall for ballet, probably around 5' 9" without the heels. Maybe a model, but again, they were too far from the garment or theater districts for that to be likely. He was slowly getting hypnotized by the way her brown hair fluttered as she moved, how her fingers daintily but precisely twirled her stirring spoon, how her brow furrowed in intense concentration.
Knowing he was doing the creepy staring thing that sometimes plagued him, he forcefully turned himself so that she was out of his line of vision. He wanted to keep watching her. He wanted to talk to her, find out who and what she was, but he shook himself free of that notion, decided to concentrate on ordering his coffee.
He ordered, paid the kind old woman that worked the register, decided to hurry out of the store and get home. He duck his head, took one step, and collided with the woman he'd been staring at earlier. So much for keeping her out of his eye-line.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said.
He looked down at the warm mess on his chest and then over at her, oddly happy that he'd taken the brunt of the damage. "No, I'm pretty sure this one was my fault. I'm not very good at looking where I'm going."
"I think I've ruined your coat... I could ... well, actually, I'm pretty sure I can't afford to replace it."
"Replace it? It's nothing a little red wine won't get out," he said with a chuckle. Even if the sport coat was ruined, it wasn't a favorite, and he had two dozen more like it.
"Sure. You put red wine on it, then you put club soda on it to get out the red wine. Everyone knows that."
She chuckled. "I don't think anyone knows that because it won't work. At least let me pay to get it dry-cleaned."
"Again, my fault, not yours," he said, unable to keep the smile off his face or out of his voice. She really was lovely, and there was an enjoyable edge to the way she spoke.
"No, it really wasn't. Give me the coat, I'll dry clean it, get it back to you."
"Trying to get me out of my clothes and in public no less. Kinky." Was he flirting with this woman, he wondered? He'd always enjoyed flirting, received plenty of attention over the years once women knew who he was. But this was different. She obviously didn't recognize him. And he was surprised that he could be in a mood to flirt, considering what he had started today.
She rolled her eyes at him, but she was still smiling. "In your dreams. I'm just trying to make amends."
"How 'bout I just go to the bathroom, try to blot most of this out? We're both making too big a deal out of this."
"Fine. You try that, I'll be here. But if you can't get it out, we're working out some way for me to make it up to you," she said. He loved the sly smile she gave him.
"Fine," he said, "Don't miss me too much."
As he walked to the bathroom, he felt oddly light for a second or two, but then reality came crashing down on him. He was desperately out of dating practice, having gone on a few dates right after he and Meredith had split, but nothing else in more than a year. Despite the rust, he could still sense that if he asked her out, she'd say yes. He could tell he wanted to ask her out, wanted her to say yes. But, while flirting was one thing, a date was another. Where could it possibly go? He was about to be divorced, about to have his life splashed on the pages of the tabloids. Now was not the time to think of beautiful brunettes with beauty marks on their cheeks. He had to get out of there. He turned, not for the bathroom, but for the front door. He was almost out when he stopped, realized he was going to be horribly rude to this charming woman. He could at least do something nice before he ran away. He turned back to the clerk, ordered the soy latte he'd remembered her getting.
"Give it to the brunette with the leather jacket," Castle said to the man making the coffee.
"You mean, Kate? Sure, it's her regular order. I just made her one."
"I know, I accidentally spilled it." He took a few extra bucks, dropped them in the tip jar. He looked over, made sure the woman was looking away from them, and hurried out the front door.
To be continued...