Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
And just like that, Alexis walks out the door.
Everything. Her whole life has been in this loft and she packs up and goes in one night. No boxes, no tumble of participation trophies, no agonizing over what to bring.
Alexis is gone like it was the easiest thing in the world.
The burn in his chest makes him turn for his office and the burn of a good scotch, his hands hanging at his sides. He takes the bottle precisely from the bar, pours three fingers' worth into a tumbler. Sinking down into the chair across from his desk, Castle puts the glass to his lips and stares out into the cramped New York City night.
After a mouthful that does nothing to relieve the knot, he sets the tumbler on the floor beside his chair and reaches instead for his laptop. The blank document is the snowfield on which to trace the tracks of his lingering disappointment and frustrated heartache. After the words connect to sentences and push on to paragraphs, he has the trail of something that feels weightier than Storm, more complicated than even Nikki.
There is no mystery in this other than the mystery of human existence, and when the darkness seeps steadily over the page like a stain, he realizes.
He may have just begun writing serious literature.
Rather than being pleased, he's only sad.
He titles it "Too Soon" and wanders through the snowfields of the inscape of his mind for as long as the words will come.
His daughter has been inspiration and editor, muse and critic for a number of his novels, but now begins the new life. Serious literature and a senator and three kids and all the crazy things that will have happened.
Castle pauses the run of black typography and saves the document out of habit, closes the lid of the laptop. It's warm across his thighs and he lets his eyes drift back to the windows, the yellow apartment lights and the string of security lamps outside.
He set himself - and her - up for this. His own fault, telling her time and again that she was the only one with any sense in their family, the one responsible and mature and adult. It was cute when she was four, and precocious when she was ten. It was a little adorably heartbreaking when she was fifteen and grounding herself in a fit of tearful baby blues.
But as a college co-ed, bringing an ambitionless ragamuffin home with her and not even asking with that smile that knows she'll get her own way in the end...
It's not cute. He hopes she hasn't diverted the stream of her life down a channel too far off course. He wants more for her than Pi. More for her than a boy who doesn't even have the respect for others to pick up after himself, who can't manage to hold down a job without some excuse for why it doesn't work for him.
It's not cute. And they are not cute together. And-
The Beckett ringtone makes him startle, the laptop slipping down into the side of the chair. He catches it and shifts onto one hip to snag his phone, pushes a smile to his lips for her even though she's not here to appreciate the lie.
"Good evening, Senator."
"That's not funny."
"It's not," he agrees. "None of this is."
"Nothing. Something. Nothing. I'm - writing literature. And it's bumming me out."
She chuckles on the other end, throaty and warm, and he knows immediately she's been in the bathtub, that the heat of the water has filled her lungs and the humidity made her voice damp.
"You don't have to write literature if you don't want to. Just because of some..."
Because of some time traveler who disappeared going around the corner at the precinct. He's too chicken to ask her to review the in-house security tapes, afraid it will show Simon Doyle rippling right out of time.
Or not. He's not sure which is worse - Doyle disappearing, or Castle just unable to follow the man down a clear hallway and consequentially spooking himself.
"Actually," Kate says.
"Actually?" he echoes, a certain shiver of horror going down his spine. "Actually what?"
"After you left..."
"After I left." Why does this feel like a terrible confession?
"I was getting ready to go, pulling on my jacket and grabbing my bag and I - Castle, I knocked over my coffee."
"Okay," he says. His fingers rub over the smooth edge of the laptop, mindful of the words he's written tonight about how the leaving spills out through the heart.
"It stained the letter," she says carefully.
"It stained the letter."
"That Deschile wrote."
"Wasn't it already stained? The photo from Ward-"
"It was stained in the photo, yes," she says tightly. He hears something in her voice that reminds him of the thin, barely discernible crack running through one of his favorite coffee mugs (he blames Pi). Something about to break.
"So you spilled more-"
"The letter we got from Wickfield was unstained, Castle. The coffee stained it to - to match the photo."
His blood freezes. Like it did in the hall when he rounded the corner on nothing.
"Castle? I could use some of your coping mechanism here."
He has nothing pithy at all. He's writing serious literature in the dark after his daughter tossed in her lot with a boy who trashes the home he's a guest in.
What he has is: I saw Simon Doyle disappear. Or rather, he saw the nothing that ought to have been a man but was only empty corridor.
Only those words won't unstick. Instead he says, "Alexis left me."
"What?" she chokes.
"She left. She packed up a suitcase and a bag and that's it."
"She told you she was renting a place... didn't she?"
"If I hadn't gotten home when I did, I'd have missed her entirely," he confesses, the darkest part of things, the heaviest weight that sinks like words onto a page.
"She wasn't going to even..."
"You don't know that."
"Was it - I shouldn't have made her choose. I put down an ultimatum and she-"
"Castle, sometimes we need a little push to do what's right."
"Moving in with Pi isn't right," he blurts out. But she's already talking over him, explaining.
"I didn't meant that. Only that - only that sometimes, Rick, you don't... exactly stand up for yourself. When it comes to the people you love who are making the wrong choices."
His mouth drops open and he tilts his head back, stares at the dark ceiling. "This feels like a conversation too involved for midnight on the phone."
"It's not in a bad way. Entirely."
"Of course it's in a bad way," he grumbles. "I don't stand up for myself. Really." Well, could he sound any less manly? He's never been the football and beer kind of guy, and Beckett, of all people, knows that. But basic stuff, he feels he represents. He brings it. His prowess is legendary, his-
"I was talking about me," she sighs. "And maybe them too, but mostly me."
"Who is them? Alexis and Pi? I can assure you, there is no love lost between Pi and myself."
"No. I guess. Uh, your mother. But-"
"Kate." He is too weary for this.
"You're right. Too involved a conversation. I'm just rattled."
"Rattled. By portents of the future."
She gives a sound that he supposes is meant to pass for a chuckle. "Mm," she cracks. "Three? Three is too much for me."
"Three is - ah. Well. Since you're a senator, I suppose you spend enough time on the Hill that you're not the one dealing with the triplets."
"The triplets?" She catches herself in the midst of her incredulousness and then she really does laugh, a lighter thing, and he's at least glad his coping mechanism is working for someone.
It ain't working for him.
"Right, of course. With rhyming names?"
"Wouldn't go that far. Just initial consonance will do."
"Well, with Castle and Kate already..."
"Oh, that's just..." He laughs now too, finds himself actually amused, grateful not to be having either of those other conversations.
"Wrong?" she murmurs.
"Wrong," he supplies. And is this how they wind up having a conversation about kids? He hadn't thought to need one with Detective Beckett.
But perhaps with Kate.
Instead, she veers off again. "So what is your work of serious fiction about?"
"How we force good-bye."
"Oh, Castle," she sighs. "How about you leave off the literature until after Nikki has had her way with you?"
Something sharp and suggestive and wanting in her voice makes him sit up straight, makes him pay attention to the clues. His feet shift on the floor as he moves to stand. "Had her way with me? You mean my run of pulp fiction shouldn't end quite yet."
"Yes? Among other meanings."
"Are you... you're not taking a bath right now, are you, Kate Beckett?"
"I am not," she answers. The faint ding over the phone has him scooping the computer off his lap and leaving it on the desk.
He pushes out of the study and down the hall and manages to catch the sight of the doorknob turning.
"You're home," he says stupidly, watching even as she steps through the front door. He lowers the phone from his ear.
"I'm home." She smiles at him, presses her back against the door as she closes it. "Your daughter texted me when she left."
"Maybe it is a little bit about us," Kate admits with a crooked smile. She lifts off the door and heads for him, a hand held out as if in a peace offering. "Maybe she thinks it's safe now to leave."
"For you," she sighs. Her palm presses over his heart and her body comes in close. A brief meeting of their eyes in acknowledgment and then her head tucks under his chin. She's fitting herself into him, and he folds his arms around her, lowering his cheek to her hair.
He wants to ask - safe for him how - or maybe he wants to argue against that reasoning since just tonight Kate told him she wanted a bath and she'd call him later. Maybe he wants to write serious literature in his dark office for a little while longer, until the pieces of his world stop kaleidoscoping into such a broken picture.
Maybe he just wants so badly to keep hold of home. Even though it keeps slipping right out of his grasp.
"Alexis may have asked me to move in with you," Kate sighs into his neck. "I may have said yes."
Castle startles with laughter, the whole picture tilting and shifting, his breath catching somewhere around where her arms are curling around his torso, strong and thin.
"May have?" he repeats.
Her sigh is only for show, and he feels her smile right against his jaw as she dusts a kiss across his chhek. "Only if you don't call me senator."
"At least not until you run for office," he capitulates. "After that, fair game."
Her fingers stroke his nape. "Castle, I really can't stand politics. The job in DC showed me that loud and clear. It's not a good fit, no matter how good the cause or how rewarding the position."
He opens his mouth to say It's just a story but he remembers rounding the corner on nothing, remembers her saying the coffee stain spread across the letter just as it should.
"So I need you," she says slowly. "To talk me out of it. When it - if it comes time."
He doesn't want... There is so much to the future of them that he doesn't want set in stone yet. "I'll talk you out of it. You know me - I'm good with words."
She lets out a breath and wraps her arm around his neck, drags herself in so close that he can feel the tremor run down her spine.
He'll talk her out of it. He will.
Already they've rewritten the future. They'll do it again and again if they have to.