A/N: This is a post-47 Seconds fic set the same day, immediately after the case ends. I was listening to Brandy Clark's song 'In Some Corner' which I urge you to listen to if you don't know it, and it made me want to write something based loosely around the theme of the song. If you don't know her music, her album '12 Stories' is lovely. She is a great storyteller.
Hope you enjoy this. The point of view varies from time to time between the characters but it's not hard to follow. I will update CHFG soon too, I promise. Just needed a little breather.
"In Some corner - in some bar
Somewhere not too far
He's drinking scotch on the rocks
Watchin' the sweat on the glass roll off
In some corner, in some bar, somewhere"
- Brandy Clark - In Some Corner
"So I guess it's just us," she had said, turning to him with that beguiling, open smile she'd begun to use with him more and more.
Ryan and Esposito had just begged off drinks after the bombing case closed. And her assumption that they were an us – a couple – without asking him whether they were going out for a drink together or not clawed at something deep inside him, something he was desperate to give in to, would have done in years gone by before he met her and she made him want to raise his game and become a more principled man.
Richard Castle of old would have swallowed his pride over a lie if it meant a chance to go out drinking with a beautiful woman he had his eye on, a woman he thought he stood a chance with. But Rick Castle of today is hurt and he has standards, so he walked out of there with a cold rebuff and no real explanation to go out drinking alone.
Castle's cool demeanor, his refusal to go out for drinks with her, the change in him from that morning, when he had leaned in close, looked her in the eye and seemed to be on the verge of confessing something meaningful to both of them, nagged at Kate as she put her coat on. She watched the elevator doors close on his dark expression. He never once looked her way, and that just wasn't like him. Never was that like him.
Something he said earlier that day came back into her mind then, the stream of words coldly delivered in a tone so unusual for him. The coffee cup left on her desk when she got out of interrogation. Esposito's explanation that he'd left saying he had somewhere else to be…all of these little clues were adding up to give her a deeply uneasy feeling.
"Sinning by silence – it's not smart, it's not brave, it's just cowardly." Wasn't that what he had told Leanne West right before they charged her with conspiracy to commit mass murder?
And why had she felt as if these words were aimed at her and not Leanne? The answer is too troubling to acknowledge right away.
Martha answers the door when she arrives at the loft.
"Kate?" Castle's mother's greeting is filled with surprise that seems less about finding her here tonight and more about finding her here at all. "I'm afraid Richard isn't here."
The normally warm, gracious and hospitable woman makes no attempt to invite her in.
"Do you know where he might have gone?"
Castle's mother sighs. "Darling, I'm not sure now is a good time."
"Martha, what's going on? This morning I could have sworn he was about to…and then tonight..."
"To what, dear?"
She can't even say it. "It doesn't matter. I shouldn't have come. I'm sorry for disturbing you."
Kate turns away, takes a step or two down the hall before Martha's voice rings out again.
"Try Flannery's on the corner of Ludlow and Delancey. He sometimes goes there when he's—" Martha waves her hand dismissively and shakes her head. She looks worried, older.
"When he's what, Martha? Please tell me. None of this is making any sense," asks Kate, coming back to stand in front of her partner's mother. "I'm worried about him."
"I've said too much already."
"Then one more thing won't hurt."
Martha looks torn and then she sees the concern on Kate's face for her only son. She tuts and shakes her head again.
"You didn't hear this from me, okay? He goes to Flannery's when he's feeling...depressed. Spent a lot of time there last summer drowning his sorrows, if you get my drift." She arches an elegant eyebrow at Kate and purses her lips in displeasure.
And the gears crunch and the wheels spin and suddenly it's all clicking into place. The still warm coffee cup on her desk, his speedy departure while she interrogated Bobby Lopez. He heard her. Shit, he heard her tell Bobby that she remembered everything. He knows that she lied and now she's losing him.
"Thank you. I'm so sorry, Martha. I'll fix it. I promise. I'm sorry."
"Don't tell me, dear. Tell him. He's the one who deserves your apology."
Kate nods, about to leave, feeling chastened when Martha adds a killer blow.
"Please don't hurt my son. Let him down gently."
She feels her stomach turn at Martha's assumption, then she squeezes the older woman's arm and turns away, never so ashamed in front of anyone as she is tonight.
His head whips round at the familiar sound of his name tripping off her tongue, but then he remembers and he reluctantly turns away. The barman eyes them both with a discreet curiosity. He doesn't see too many women who look like Kate Beckett in here, on the wrong side of Bowery. His evening just got a whole lot more interesting.
Kate stands several feet away from Castle's spot at the far end of the bar, hands jammed into her pants pockets, fists curled up tight, with her short nails digging half-moons into her palms while the writer studiously tries to ignore her.
"You're angry." It's an observation, a show opener, a statement and a mea culpa all rolled into one.
"You think?" His voice is harsh, dripping sarcasm and a fifth of whisky.
"You have every right to be. I…I'm—"
Castle holds up a hand, silencing her. "No, wait. Don't say it. Let me guess." He puts his fingers to his forehead and closes his eyes as if mentally summoning Kate's words, like a magic trick or some freak circus act. "The next word you were about to say was…sorry. Am I right?"
Kate nods grimly. "Castle, I—"
"Don't. It's fine. I'm over it. Johnnie Walker and I had a little chat and he convinced me I'm right about something even my own mother couldn't understand."
Dryly, crossing her arms, indulging him for a second, Kate asks, "What was that?"
"She said love isn't like a switch, you can't just turn it off."
"And you think you can?"
"Johnnie Walker here showed me I could." Castle lifts the cheap glass tumbler and smacks it back down on the bar for emphasis with a crack.
"That's just the drink talking."
"Yeah, well, at least someone is talking," he says, pointedly, swirling ice around the glass.
"I shouldn't have lied to you…about the shooting…about what I heard."
"Look at you," says Castle, giving Kate a slow, slightly leering once-over, a look of disgust marring his face. "All this time, the cat is out of the bag, and you still can't say it. I told you that I loved you, Kate. There. See how easy that was?" Castle shakes his head, downs the rest of the Scotch in one and bangs his glass down on the bar to summon another from the bartender hovering a few feet away trying to look disinterested in yet another personal drama unfolding in this temple to misery.
"Gah!" Castle hisses, whisky burning his throat. "What does it matter now anyway? We all know where we stand. That's the main thing."
"I don't think we do," replies Kate calmly, gnawing on her lip, feeling at sea but determined to make it into the lifeboat with him this time.
Castle turns to glare at her, swaying slightly on his stool. "Are you still here. Why are you even still here?"
Kate ignores his loud, public rebuff and sits down on the stool one over from him. She waves to the bartender, points to both their places. "Set em up, please? I'll have whatever he's having. And keep them coming."
They sit side-by-side in silence for five or so minutes. Castle ignoring Kate, an angry vibe translated by his tensed up body language. Kate sips her Scotch. She's happy to keep the drinks coming if that's what he thinks he needs to torment himself, medicate his feelings or punish her. She's not quite sure what he thinks he's accomplishing by losing himself in the painful oblivion of drunkenness, but she sure as hell isn't going to follow him down that path. She'll keep him company, watch over him to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, but she won't lose her head and get into a fight over this. No, she's here to clear the air, try to get him to understand her, to try to salvage what might be left of their relationship.
"So…I'm guessing you heard me talking to Bobby Lopez in interrogation today?"
Silence. Silence expanding to fill the space between them with a solidity as real as any brick wall.
"You're many things, Castle, but I never thought of you as rude."
"And I never thought you'd turn out to be a liar."
Kate nods, fingers the rim of her glass and tries to hide how much his words hurt. "Guess I deserved that."
"You said it."
"If you're hurt I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that…maybe it means you still care?"
"You treated me like an idiot, strung me along. This is fury you're looking at, most of it aimed at myself by the way. Don't misconstrue what you think you see with what's actually going on here, Beckett. Follow the evidence, isn't that what you're always ramming down my throat? No time for your wild theories, Castle. Show me some proof," he mimics, mocking her voice for effect.
"That's quite a speech," says Kate, coolly, once he's finished venting. "Anyone believe that?" she asks, raising her voice and looking down the bar at the few sad souls sitting alone or in pairs who are clearly listening in to their conversation.
Heads duck back down to study drinks, shred paper napkins or look away altogether.
"Thought not," says Kate, satisfied that she's chased off their audience for now. "See," she says, gesturing out across the bar. "No one here believes you either, Castle."
He wants to say 'Fuck you'. She can see it written across his face, in the angry curl of his mouth, the white of his knuckles as they clutch the scuffed glass and the hurt darkness that has dimmed his eyes. Hell, she wants to tell herself the same thing some days. Most days lately. She has so much self-loathing for all the pain she's put him through because she was too weak and cowardly to take a chance and trust him with her heart. Richard Castle of all people. She has let men of nowhere near his caliber, his heart, his integrity, honesty, loyalty and standing into her life. So why not him? She has asked herself that over and over again in the dark of night alone in her bed, or in those moments when he looks at her in that magical way that he has – as if she is everything he ever wanted and then some.
"I was terrified."
She says these words so quietly that she thinks maybe he didn't hear her, when more than a handful of heartbeats pass and he remains mute and brooding, slouched over his glass of Scotch.
She goes to open her mouth to repeat them again or some slightly altered variation on the same theme – 'I was scared', 'You caught me at a bad moment' (no kidding), 'I needed time to heal'. She knows they are all excuses of one form or another, some true, some not so true. For a woman who is tasked with bravery in the role she is paid to perform for society, she sure has a wide streak of cowardice running beneath the surface when it comes to being honest with him.
But before she can take the breath required to stumble out a few more words of explanation, Castle startles her by speaking first.
"And you don't think I was terrified too? Did that thought ever occur to you? You were dying. I spilled my guts because I had no choice. You were seeing another man and still…I couldn't keep that to myself anymore. But what kind of boor does that make me?"
"You're not a boor," Kate assures him immediately, since it's the last thing he says and the only thing she can think to refute right now.
"Oh? Declaring your love for another man's woman doesn't make me a Neanderthal?"
"I'm not a possession, Castle. He didn't own me."
"You know what I mean," he snarls, downing the rest of his Scotch.
"You thought you might never get another chance…I imagine. There were…extenuating circumstances. No one could blame you."
"So, you do understand?"
"Of course I—"
It feels like entrapment, ensnaring…whatever, something like being caught out, and she hopes she hasn't just made him even madder.
"So, if you understood, why did you lie to me?"
"I told you – I was terrified."
"No!" She insists on this point without thinking, but then it's out there and she can't take it back.
Kate taps her fingertips on the bar, beating out a soundless, nervous rhythm; buying time. With her other hand she shifts her Scotch glass back and forth, creating ring upon interlinking ring beneath the sweating glass on the worn wooden surface of the bar. This is not going as well as she hoped. He's turning the tables, drunk or not, and suddenly she's on the back foot, having to defend herself.
"I asked you a simple question. What were you so terrified of that you felt the need to lie to me for months?"
"Failing. Okay? Letting you down. Losing what we had already. Lots of things I hate myself for."
"You knew how I felt about you when you started dating Josh."
It's an accusation, but she's pretty certain he isn't wrong, so she doesn't argue the point directly.
"We never talked about how we felt. There was a line, Castle. You know that. We never crossed it."
"Why? Hmm? Give me one good reason why we…why we waited, why we hurt each other? You—you were like the best friend I never had. You were—" He scrubs a hand down over his face, tongue-tied and utterly frustrated. Kate feels so sorry for him, peeling himself raw like this in front of her in some anonymous dive bar, surrounded by people with enough misery of their own to drown in. "Everyone could see it…what there was…could have been between us. Why the hell—?"
"I don't know," she says simply, exhausted by all the things they're trying to say now and still find hard to get out, even at this desperate point of crisis.
"You don't know? Or you still won't say?"
"You know all of this, Castle. We both do. How things went between us from day one. There was a spark and I hated you for it. You drove me nuts, you—you wormed your way into my life…you pushed all the time and I hated you for it until…I just didn't anymore."
"Apathy set in? I ground you down. How flattering," he sneers.
"That's not it and you know it. You look good in Armani, Castle. But self-pity doesn't hang so well. Give it up."
He snorts at her joke. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Yeah, you would."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
They're taking shots at one another, but neither seems able to stop.
"Any opportunity to make light, play the wise guy and you take it."
"And we're both not guilty of hiding behind our own little idiosyncrasies? Our coping mechanisms? So maybe I joke around a lot. Have you looked at how fast you run from anything real lately? I wasn't making light of things when I told you I loved you. I showed up at that hospital with my heart on my sleeve and you knew it. I could see it in your eyes, how you lied to me. But you were sick and I didn't want to push and I trusted you when you said that you would call. End of the day, I couldn't believe that you of all people would treat me that badly. Call me soft, call me dumb...I chose to accept that you hadn't heard or that you couldn't remember any of that day after you got shot. It was just easier that way."
"That's right…after I got shot!" she hisses angrily. "You don't think an experience like that changes a person? Someone wanted me dead, Castle. Life doesn't get much more real or much scarier than that."
He fires back at her immediately.
"You don't think I know that? I was at the precinct day after day tracking down leads to try and catch the sons of bitches who put that bullet in your chest, Kate. Waiting for the phone to ring, to hear your voice saying that you wanted to see me."
She winces, bites her lip and tries to reach out to touch his arm, but he snatches it away out of reach. "I'm sorry I never called."
"Yeah, there's that word again. Sorry. Kind of loses its meaning after you've heard it a few times."
"Not if you really mean it, it shouldn't."
"Sorry doesn't make this all okay, Kate. Sorry doesn't explain or make up for the lies, the…the way you abandoned everything when you left"
"Abandoned you, you mean?"
"How pathetic does that make me sound if I say yes?"
"Not pathetic," she says quietly, her anger spent. "It's…actually kind of sweet."
"Sweet? How'd you figure that? You'd been shot, literally died a couple of times…went away to heal, and I can only imagine how that must have felt. And here I am complaining about being abandoned like some bitter little orphan. What am I five?"
"No. You were…are my partner. I owed you more than I gave you. Especially after everything that happened at the cemetery, everything you tried to do for me, Rick."
"No," he says resolutely, shaking his head. "No, you don't owe me anything. We're square. You would have done the same for me."
Her question stops him dead. He thought they could count on one another absolutely. Her self-doubt shocks him.
"What do you mean?"
"I've asked myself that question so many times. If roles were reversed, would I have had the courage to tell you…like that, when it looked like there would be no more chances, no time left to put it off or…or wait until the moment was perfect and the goddam stars aligned or whatever the hell I thought I was waiting for…"
He breathes out. "I meant dive in front of you, try to stop the bullet then the bleeding."
Kate waves her hand dismissively, and reaches for her own Scotch, takes a mouthful that she then has to try not to choke on. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and throws Castle a glare of her own. "That's a given," she rasps out, her throat constricting as it copes with the sting of hard liquor.
"Then…what are you talking about?"
"Get your coat. We're leaving," she tells him, hopping down off her stool after placing a bundle of notes on the bar beneath her Scotch glass to settle the tab.
"What makes you think I'm going anywhere with you?" asks Castle, watching her shrug into her leather jacket and walk towards the front door without answering him or looking back to see if he's even following her.
When he turns away and stares back down at his glass, it takes only a few seconds until his head slowly rises again and he finds himself eye-to-eye with the barman.
"Woman like that asks you to follow her…" the barman shrugs. "Just sayin'," he adds, when Castle glares at him for interfering. "Not a sight I see in here everyday," he tells Castle, jerking his head towards the slowly closing door.
Castle lasts a few more seconds and then he bangs his glass on the bar top. "Dammit," he curses, sluggishly easing himself down off the stool.
He sways until he finds his feet and then he drags his heavy jacket off the chair and forces his arms through the sleeves. His body feels lethargic, every movement slow and deliberate, as if he's wading through molasses.
"Right call, buddy," says the barman, giving him a sharp salute.
"Like I ever have a choice with her," mutters Castle, under his breath.
"Take care, man," the bartender calls after him, as Castle finally heads for the door, which is now closed. "Send me an invite to the wedding."
He takes his time climbing the stairs up to street level, since sprawling headfirst up the steps would just be the perfect end to a perfectly crappy day. Wind whips down the broad sidewalk and he feels himself begin to sober instantly. The cold air brings pangs of regret and that terrible haunting sensation of nonspecific fear that he can't quite find a place for. Along with the fear comes an undercurrent of worry that he has just burnt his bridges with Kate Beckett once and for all. No matter that she followed him here, apologized again, kept him company, and wants him to leave with her for wherever she's decided they should be heading now, he's becoming resigned. All of these signs should mean something coming from her, but he still has a nagging dread that they are over before they have even begun.
He looks right and then left, tugging his coat closer around him, fumbling closed the one button he can reach. For a second he's pissed that she's lured him out here, away from the warmth of the bar and the wherewithal to drown his sorrows, and then he sees her. She's standing fifty yards away down the street, leaning against a newsstand waiting for him. The sight of her is arresting in itself. She is a stunning woman; a woman he was about to try and start something with just a few hours ago. He still can't stop himself from wanting her, no matter what she's done, and a small part of him hates himself for feeling that way.
"This had better be good," he says, when he reaches her and they fall in step.
"I'll let you be the judge."
"Where are we going?"
"Just walk with me."
Castle stops dead on the sidewalk; forcing several people to swerve around him. When Kate realizes he's not beside her anymore she turns back to look for him, finding him standing like a petulant child marooned in a sea of concrete – heels dug in, hands jammed into his pockets, posture stiff and unyielding.
"Tell me or I'm going back inside," he demands.
Kate looks down at the ground, and when she raises her eyes to look at his face, she seems unsure of herself for the first time since she showed up at the bar. But she tells him anyway; hoping the spare information she shares will be enough to get him moving again.
"To my apartment. I have something I want to show you."
TBC. Love to hear you thoughts.