Post-ep for 'The Final Nail'
February 14th 2011
The bar had been quiet when they had arrived, just a handful of people around them. Some alone, silent, hunched over, nursing a beer, others surrounded by friends, co-workers, laughing or commiserating over glass after glass of their poison of choice.
Then there's them, stuck in some kind of undefinable relationship, sitting opposite one another, throwing back shots, caught between spilling secrets, and just being a silent presence, a shoulder to lean on.
A few have become many – people, drinks, secrets - and the noise from those around them is increasing. He checks his phone, checks the time, surprised by just how much time has passed since they arrived at the bar, knows she is supposed to be somewhere else. He leans across the small table, holding his phone up. She glances at the display, and then slides another shot across the wooden table top, lime and a salt shaker between them.
Castle eyes the glass, but doesn't touch it. He slips his phone back in his pocket, and glances up at her. "Josh?" He asks, by way of reminding her she did in fact have a date tonight, with someone other than himself.
Beckett smiles softly over the rim of her shot glass, before nodding. "He'll call me when he's done." Salt. Tequila. Lime. Lick. Swallow. Suck.
Castle bites down on the sour lime; the juice runs down his throat, soothing after the burn of the tequila. "Working?" He asks, his voice heavy, thick, laced with arousal he makes no attempt to hide. But if she could only see the way her tongue had grazed over her own skin, scraping up the salt, how her lips had caressed the shot glass, the ripples at her throat as she had swallowed. Kate Beckett had made love to that shot, with her lips and tongue alone.
She focuses her attention on the empty shot glass, the tip of her index finger tracing the rim, sliding down the curve of the smooth glass to the sticky surface of the table. She nudges the glass across the tabletop with her finger, lining it up with the two before. "On-call, and sure enough he was called in. But..." She meets his eyes in the darkened room, and smiles again, as if to show it's fine, she's fine, maybe even convince herself. "He'll call me when he's done."
"Saving lives?" Castle asks, a somber edge to tone, knowing the answer and resigned by the fact he can't compete with that. But, oh, that's an admission for another day.
"Surgery," Beckett confirms, nodding her head slightly, her eyes once more on the empty glasses. "Hard to justify getting angry over that, so it is what it is."
"You're upset though." When she looks up and opens her mouth to tell him he's wrong, he holds up a hand to silence her. "You're allowed to be. It's Valentine's."
"Yeah," she agrees, her voice low, barely audible. "It is." She smiles sadly across at him, exhales a breath. "How are you doing?"
He shrugs, as if to show it's nothing, but neither of them believes it. "Been better, that's for sure," he finally admits.
"I'm sorry about Damien, Castle."
"What a pair we make tonight." She glances at her phone, and then shoves it deep in her pocket: no missed calls or messages. "Misery loves company," she adds somberly. She doesn't mean to bring him down, knows he is trying to keep his own mood light. They're both failing.
"Right," he says then, glancing around the poorly-lit bar, through the sea of others like themselves, drinking away their pain on Valentine's, searching for someone to flag down. "Enough."
Kate heaves a sigh. "Sorry, Castle."
He shakes his head, keeps the It's fine, Kate, to himself. "Ready to get drunk?"
She meets his eyes, sees a glimmer of hope there, a moment where his blue eyes hold their usual spark - but it's fleeting. "Yeah." Because the tequila isn't hitting her yet, and she needs to get lost for a while. And being lost with Castle makes her feel a little less alone in the wilderness of life. "Let's do this."
She waits with a heavy heart, her fingernail tapping out her misery on the shot glass, while he beckons an exuberant college girl with a tray over. He orders for her, without even a glance in her direction, because he knows exactly what she needs. Something Josh is yet to be able to do. How he knows she's in a whiskey mood is beyond her. He's clearly in one too. She wants it to burn, all the way down. Burn her, engulf her from the inside out, and help her to feel.
Because it's Valentine's Day, and Josh is on-call.
The buzz has settled in, and she has to stop. Really has to stop. She feels no desire to have to explain to Josh that she is drunk because she's been drinking with her partner while waiting for him. How long have they been here, in the crowded, loud, bar, with its sticky surfaces and a bathroom you don't break the seal for, how long? Long enough to forget sobriety. Long enough to almost not care that when the phone call does come it will be to let her down. She refuses to glance at her phone now, not even to check the time.
She blinks, realizes he's speaking to her. "I'm sorry, Castle. What did you say?" She meets his eyes across the small table, the haze now cleared.
He smiles knowingly, and nods slowly. "That it's late, and I should call you a cab."
Her phone buzzes in her pocket, and she shifts her attention, dropping her gaze down to her hand as she fishes the phone out. A simple message, overdue, but she smiles nevertheless. It's late. I'm sorry. Skip straight to drinks?
"Um, one minute, Castle. Just let me..." She types out a reply, quick and precise, and then gives Castle her attention once more. "Josh is done; he'll meet me here."
Castle suppresses the wave of disappointment, the selfishness he suddenly feels, and forces a smile. "Guess I'll call myself a cab then."
She reaches across the table before talking herself out of it, and places her hand over his. "You gonna be okay, Castle?" Alone?
His eyes flick down to her hand, and he swallows quickly before the inevitable stumble of words as his mouth betrays him. Her touch is a comfort, her skin so soft and warm on his, and he knows he shouldn't let it affect him, but his heart beats just a little faster, slightly more erratic than normal, and he forgets to breathe for a moment. "Yeah, don't worry about me," he tells her once he's regained control, his voice deceptively steady. "Thank you," he adds, his hand still resting beneath hers. "I needed this." The drinks. Your company.
She curls her fingers around his palm, and once he flips his hand over she squeezes gently. "Martha and Alexis at home?"
He nods. "Yeah."
"Good," she replies kindly, slipping her hand out of his, her fingers trailing lightly along his palm as she pulls back. "Go home to your family, Castle. I'll see you tomorrow." He stands quickly, she thinks because he has a need to be gone before Josh arrives, and perhaps that's for the best, so she leaves him with one final thought. "Call me, if you need to." She falters then, feeling a little foolish. "I mean, if you need to talk. I know it's Valentine's but… You're my partner, Castle. I'm here if you need me." I might need you…
He smiles warmly as he slips his coat on, and nods as if to say 'Thank you, but I won't.' Instead he bids her goodnight, and leaves her alone, with her whiskey and thoughts.
It's late now, past midnight, but sleep won't come. Her phone lies in her open palm, the smooth, dark, display staring up at her. Taunting her. Daring her.
She is curled up on her bed, alone, the sheet her only shield. Beneath she is exposed, emotionally naked, physically nude, and she shouldn't even be considering this.
But she needs... Something. An anchor. A steadfast rock in a cliff for millions of years, never giving in to erosion. Something solid. Something strong. Something to cling to.
She needs Castle.
Hell, Josh knows. Deep down, she thinks, Josh knows. But they haven't had that conversation yet. Might never.
With a well-rehearsed touch, she selects Castle's name from her contacts, and calls him.
She is lonely. She is reaching out. She will admit neither of those to him.
"A body?" He asks instantly, his voice a little rough. She has clearly woken him.
"No." She hesitates then, because this isn't her. She doesn't do things like this, doesn't phone him after midnight simply to hear his voice.
"Are you okay?"
She hears the rustling, him sitting up in his bed. She hears the worry instantly filling his voice. And, god, he has every right to be concerned. Because this just isn't her.
"I'm fine," she replies softly.
Then he understands; in those two words he finds clarity. "How was your evening?" His tone makes it clear he's well aware there were no further drinks once he had left.
"Josh was on-call tonight," she replies simply.
"He didn't show."
The way he says it makes her feel like she was stood up. "He phoned and apologized, about thirty minutes after you left. It's simply how his life is, and I guess it's mine now."
"I'm sorry." And he means it.
"No." She sighs then, annoyed with herself. "I'm sorry. Go back to sleep. I'm fine."
"I wasn't sleeping," he tells her.
"I was writing."
He chuckles softly. "Yes, actually. Pen and paper; old school. Had to get some words out, you know how it is."
She really doesn't. When she has felt pain she has turned to the words others have put together, the sentences they formed that then eased her out of her own head and into that of someone else. She has never been the one to create those paragraphs herself, fill those pages, write that book.
"So, what's on your mind, Detective?"
He's putting emotional distance between them - not Beckett, not Kate, Detective- while still making her talk. She loves him for that.
She loves him for a lot of things but... She's not supposed to think like that.
She slips down a little further under the sheet and rearranges it around her chest, a shield across her heart. "Wanted to make sure you were okay," she tells him gently. "Today was rough."
"Well, I'm still a little drunk - your fault, by the way - and writing a tequila-fueled trip down memory lane. So, yes, I'm okay."
She blinks, runs a hand through her loose hair. "You're writing a sex scene?"
"That I am."
"You're in bed, writing a sex scene. How salacious, Castle."
"Oooh, say that again," he teases.
"Salacious?" She asks, smirking. "You like that?"
"I like the way it rolled off your tongue there, Beckett."
The sheet slips down a little, the cool air hitting her chest, creating goosebumps on her exposed skin. "Oh the things you wish you could see roll off my tongue." She presses her lips together, aware of her own slip there, keeping any further words from rolling - too easily - off that tongue of hers. Some things are meant to stay in her head.
"Rook is dying to know what Nikki can do with her tongue," he replies easily. Pen hovering over the paper, poised to write. "Do share, Beckett."
"Some things stay out of the books, Castle," she replies quickly. "This is one of them."
She hears the rustle of paper, and frowns, a little concerned, a lot intrigued - but mostly suspicious. "What are you doing?"
"Putting the pen and paper down. It won't go in the book."
"No, it won't. Because it's not leaving my mouth."
"Then, please, stop reminding me of your mouth, because you're killing me here, Kate."
She inhales a sharp breath, and the sheet slips down just a little more. Kate. He isn't kidding around anymore.
Silence settles around them, just the soft static sounds of their phones, of the line between them.
She swallows, and it sounds too loud. He isn't supposed to say things like that, and it isn't supposed to affect her like this.
But it's Valentine's. And she's lonely.
She clamps down hard on her lower lip, the pain an attempt to snap her out of this and bring her back to her senses.
Her lip tingles, but her brain is still foggy, as she asks, "Why a sex scene, Castle? After today, why that?"
"Why not a scene where a friend from Rook's past turns out to be a killer?"
"Yeah, that's what I meant," she says sheepishly.
"Why do you think?"
She purses her lips, contemplates his question. "To move on, and to write the furthest thing possible from that?"
"No?" She asks, confused. "Then why?"
"Because it's Valentine's day and I was feeling inspired."
"Jose Cuervo, Pepe Lopez, whatever we were throwing back."
She smiles. "I see."
"For reasons I'm yet to write, Rook and Nikki are apart this evening - and he's missing her."
The sheet bunches at her waist, and oh if only he could see her now... "So he's going it alone?" She asks playfully.
"She just phoned him."
"Oh?" Her eyebrows shoot up at that revelation. "Why?"
"She misses him too."
Yes, she does. "Does she now?"
"Let me guess," she begins dryly. "Phone sex."
He takes the bait. "Want me to read you what I've written so far, Detective?" The leer is back in his voice. "A little bedtime story."
"Go right ahead," she tells him bravely.
He chuckles softly at that. "Maybe next time."
"Mmm," he replies. "When my head's a bit clearer."
"Is Nikki whispering dirty things to Rook over the line?" She is pushing him now, pushing herself.
"Her voice alone is his undoing." He pauses. It's a mere beat, but it feels unnaturally long to her. "Speaking of which, what are you wearing, Beckett?"
She rolls her eyes, because if he saw her he would expect her to, and ends the call - but her phone stays in her hand. Because she knows him. She knows he will...
Her phone vibrates, on silent. She smiles as she accepts the call, but she doesn't get a word out.
"I was joking."
She shakes her head despite the fact he can't see her. "Nothing."
There's a pause, an inhalation of breath, before, "I'm sorry?"
"Nothing," she replies more firmly. "Not a stitch."
"Of clothing?" He chokes the words out.
"My apartment is warm," she says in response.
"Katherine Beckett, you are a tease."
She smiles smugly. "Sound like something Nikki might do?"
"You know what else Nikki might do?"
"Hmmm?" She hums.
"Have phone sex with Rook."
"Maybe if she was single, yes." She ends the call on the yes.
Her phone buzzes again, but this time it's just a message. Three words from him.
Good night, Detective.
She smiles ruefully. He says it all in those three words, and he's right. They could have easily kept going, until all pretense was completely gone, and it was them. Her parting words had been dangerous, and a little too revealing. He could have phoned her back; she would have answered. But he won't, not tonight, not when they're both hurting, both too emotionally raw. Tonight, they sleep alone.
Tomorrow they won't talk about it.
AN: I promised Angie I would write a fic for the Valentine's Day comp the 12th Precinct is running, despite taking a break from fic. But I realised my heart just isn't in it, the whole idea of competitions and being judged against other stories. I couldn't go through that process again. Rather than let it rot away on my harddrive -or, worse still, be deleted - I'll leave it here, for you guys. For the angst lovers.
Reviews - even if you're simply telling me off for breaking a promise - would be lovely