How he ended up at the morgue, he couldn't tell. All he knew was that he needed to leave the precinct. Needed to leave Beckett and the reminder that she had found someone to spend her free time with. Someone who wasn't him. A few weeks ago, it wouldn't have bothered him as much, he was sure.
But then she had lived in the Loft with him and he had learned how nice it was to have her around the whole day and not just during the hours at the precinct. Detective Beckett was amazing and extraordinary, and he had known that long before. But in the short time she had lived in his guest room, he had been getting to know Kate Beckett, the version of her she didn't show at the precinct. The version of her that was soft and sometimes shy, that smiled and joked with him, ate dinner with him and his family. All he wanted was to get to know this version of her better.
But now she had found Tom Demming. And she seemed happy, so what could he really do about that? Cause her heartache just because he was jealous?
So, he had left the precinct, intended to go home and mope. Maybe he would have tried to write, as Gina's phone calls kept reminding him about the book he needed to finish. Not that he had actually answered any of these calls lately, because he was not ready to hear how disappointed she was in him, thank you very much.
But instead, he had ended up at the morgue without knowing why exactly. Frowning at himself he was about to turn around when he saw Lanie exiting the building. And suddenly he knew what he could do.
"Hey Lanie," he called, running to catch up with her and she stopped and turned to the sound of his voice.
"Castle? What are you doing here?" she asked, the confusion evident in her voice as she looked past his shoulder, probably wondering where Kate was.
"Oh, I uhm… grabbing some lunch."
She frowned and turned her eyes back to him. "Since when is the morgue on your way when you grab some lunch?"
"Since I wanted to ask you a question."
Lanie raised an eyebrow "I mean you could have called but okay. What do you want to know?"
"Do you have to work on the Memorial Day weekend?"
Lanie blinked, whichever question she had expected, this wasn't it. "No," she answered slowly and then furrowed her brows. "Why are you asking?"
"Do you have plans?"
"I was thinking about getting some sleep. Maybe read a book or watch some TV, you know things I don't usually get to do."
"Would you want to come to the Hamptons?" he asked in a rush, watching her with hopeful eyes as he waited for her response.
Lanie shook her head, her frown deepened. "The Hamptons?" she repeated with the same confusion from the beginning of this conversation. Did he really invite her to the Hamptons?
"Yeah I have a house there and Alexis and mother have plans and I-"
"Why are you asking me?" she interrupted him before he could go into more details about that house he had and why he wanted her, of all people, to come with him. Not that she wasn't flattered that he had thought about her. But she also knew him, had spent enough time working with him and Kate to know, whatever the reason he had invited her, she wasn't the person he actually wanted to have there.
"Because you're a friend?" he offered with a nervous smile. "And you can do all the things you want to do, like sleep and read a book, watch TV. Just with the merit of having a beach near you and all. There's-"
"No," she interrupted him once more. "I meant why are you asking me? Why don't you ask Kate?"
"Why should I ask Ka-Beckett?" he countered. She could see a glimmer of disappointment in his eyes, bevor he masked it with an attempt to look confused. "Besides she has plans with Demming that weekend," he added, without trying to hide his disappointment like he had a few seconds ago.
"Yeah," he said, shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged, "and I mean it makes sense, they're together. I don't even know why I asked her to come."
"You asked Kate to the Hamptons?"
Lanie was aware that she was repeating most of what Castle just said, but she couldn't stop herself from doing so. It had been a year now, and she knew there was something building between these two idiots. But with Kate now dating the Detective from robbery, and the way Castle had acted around her since it started, she honestly hadn't expected him to do something like that. He must have known she'd turn him down, right?
"Yes. Just as friends, of course," he added as if he was trying to convince himself there was no other reason for him to ask, and Lanie raised her eyebrow again. "What?" he asked.
"You really do like her, don't you?"
"I … what? No, I don't. I don't like her at all. Why would I like her?"
Lanie closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to stay calm while she wished she could just shake some sense into him right now.
"Okay, maybe I do," he relented. "But what does it matter? She has Demming and she clearly doesn't want to be more than friends with me, and if she's happy with him, then I am happy for her, alright."
"Okay, okay calm down." Lanie raised her hands in defence.
"So, will you come to the Hamptons? Just as friends. So, I don't have to be alone?"
"Why do you even want to go there, when no one else has time?"
"Because it's tradition, Lanie," he whined. "Ever since Alexis was little, we went there. And watched the fireworks and had fun," he went on with his explanation. "And okay, so she doesn't want to go there this year and would rather spend her time at a college experience thing, but I have everything planned and I -" he paused for a moment. "I'd go up there either way because it helps me write and Gina keeps calling me because I need to finish my book. And I just don't want to be alone this one weekend."
The hopeful look was back on his face and Lanie shrugged mentally. "Okay, I'll come."
"Really?" A surprised smile spread over his face, and Lanie couldn't help but smile back at him.
"Yes, really," she said.
"Great. I can pick you up after work tomorrow if you want to?"
"Great, so I'll see you then," Castle said, waved and turned around to make his way back to the precinct and grab some lunch for everyone on his way.
Lanie watched him for a moment, before she turned away, wondering if it had been a good idea to agree to his invitation. Yes, he was happy, and she would have been stupid to say no to an invitation to the Hamptons, but a part of her felt bad about it. She sighed. It had been obvious that Castle hadn't planned on inviting her, even before he admitted that he had already asked Kate. It seemed as if she needed to have a serious conversation with Kate. At least to make sure, she didn't decline for the wrong reasons. But now wasn't the right time for that, they were in the middle of solving a case, and she had to be cautious, else Kate would feel attacked right away, which would make the whole thing obsolete.
She turned around, shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket and crossed the street to get herself some lunch.
Kate was walking to her car, Espo's words spinning in her head "Whatever the reason is, I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve watching you be with another guy."
If she was being honest with herself, she had known that for a while, had decided to ignore the nagging thoughts, certain that if she listened to them, she'd get hurt. She didn't have time for that. Or the strength.
But maybe she was wrong? Hadn't she learned by now that Castle wasn't the guy page 6 made him look like? That most of that was an act he put on in public.
Maybe he'd only leave for the summer, but what if Espo was right and he didn't come back?
She knew she wasn't being fair with him. She also knew she wasn't being fair to Tom, either. Being with him, when her heart belonged to someone else.
She unlocked her car, opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat with a sigh.
But there was nothing she could do right now. Right now, she would drive home, get something to eat, and think about what to do about all this.
With that decision made, she put the key in the ignition, ready to leave the parking space and drive home.
But before she could do that, her phone rang. A quick glance on the screen told her it was Lanie and she accepted the call.
"Hey Lanie," she greeted, hoped her voice wouldn't give away how deep in thought she had just been. Lanie had her ways of making her talk even when she didn't want to, which sometimes was nice, but right now she just wanted to go home and be alone with her thoughts.
"We need to talk," Lanie said without any word of greeting.
Kate sighed and rubbed her fingers over her forehead. "What did I do?"
"I-" Kate frowned. What was that supposed to mean? "-don't understand," she finished.
"You did nothing, and that is the problem."
"Okaaay," Kate said and turned her head to the ceiling of her car. She really wasn't in the mood to guess what Lanie was talking about. "Do you want to elaborate on this or is that all you're telling me, because I am actually busy right now."
"Shouldn't you be on your way home?"
"Then why are you busy?"
"Lanie," she whined. "I am not in the mood."
There was a pause at the other end of the line before Lanie spoke again.
"Castle invited me to the Hamptons."
Kate almost dropped her phone. He did what?
Well fine, she had said no because she had plans with Demming. And she wouldn't want to spend the weekend with Castle either way. He was way too - fun, a voice in her mind spoke up - childish for her.
But then why did it hurt to hear he invited Lanie instead? It was his right to invite whomever he wanted to invite. Who was she to tell him who he could or couldn't invite to his beach house in the Hamptons?
"Are you still there?"
Lanie's voice coming through the speakers of her phone ended her thoughts
"I … yes. Yes, I am," Kate answered. Her fingers fiddled with her car keys. "So … what did you say?" she finally managed to ask with a steady voice.
"I said yes."
Oh, wow that stung even more. But again, why did she care? She had Tom and she was happy. Wasn't she?
Kate closed her eyes, wished she hadn't accepted the phone call, and just gone home.
"Why are you telling me this?" she asked after another pause.
"Girl, that man is in love with you." Lanie wasn't even trying to hide her exasperation.
"Yeah, right," Kate scoffed.
But wasn't that essentially what Espo had told her just a few minutes ago?
"And I only said yes because he seemed so sad. I never saw him like this before. And I couldn't let him be up there all by himself. Even if it's just for one weekend when he's spending the whole summer up there," Lanie explained, but before Kate could respond she continued, "I mean actually you should be the one to keep him company up there, but you declined. And I am not saying that you should throw away whatever you have with Demming to be with Castle instead. But… what exactly do you have with Demming?"
"Tom is nice. And fun. And …" everything that Castle wasn't. There was nothing at risk when she was with him. With Castle she had a friendship, Castle could easily break her heart. It was easy to be with Tom and not worry about the future. But Castle was … Castle. No way did he love her. Lanie must have been inhaling too many autopsy fluids.
There was a pause at the end of the line as if Lanie was waiting for her to go on. But she couldn't tell her that. Not right now. That was too much.
"I'm just saying you should think about why he has been following you all this time." Lanie finally spoke again, seemed to realise Kate wouldn't say more right now.
"For his books."
"Oh please." Lanie almost laughed. "He could write 50 books, with all the information he has gotten so far."
Kate squinted "Did you talk to Espo?"
"What?" Lanie asked, her voice a mix of confusion and defence. "No, I didn't. Why are you changing the topic like this?"
"Because he kind of said the exact same thing earlier today."
"Oh, well, great minds think alike and all that."
Kate's lips twitched and she closed her eyes for a second, shaking her head.
"But Lanie, we're talking about Richard Castle."
"Yes, and we both know he is not like page 6 makes it look."
Kate sighed but didn't reply.
"He spent $100,000 for a chance to find your mom's killer. Who does that?"
"People with money."
On the other end of the line, Lanie exhaled slowly, obviously trying to keep herself calm. And Kate knew she was being ridiculous, but she couldn't stop. The thought that Castle had another reason for that, a more meaningful reason, was too much right now.
"He offered you his home, you lived in his guest room for a week."
"Yes, because he felt like it was his fault the guy even targeted me."
"So, you're telling me there was nothing in these weeks that made you consider the possibility of something more than a friendship with him."
"Yes, I am telling you that."
"Wow. You're … wow. Do you actually believe this or are you just trying to drive me crazy?"
"Okay maybe for a very short moment I thought about the possibility that he could like me as more than a friend."
"Hah," Lanie exclaimed. "But what changed, Kate?" she asked in a more serious tone.
Kate sighed and rubbed her eyes. "He slept with Ellie Monroe. I mean who does that when they like someone else?"
The silence on Lanie's end was almost deafening. Kate could imagine Lanie raising her eyebrow in accusation.
And knew she was being ridiculous, knew that she was doing the same thing right now. Well, not exactly. She hadn't slept with Tom. Not that it mattered much, as the nagging voice in her mind kept reminding her.
But she couldn't stop herself from wondering if maybe she had been wrong about trusting Castle. Maybe he was exactly like page 6 made it seem.
"It's hopeless," Lanie muttered under her breath.
"What did you say?"
"Kate. You're an idiot," Lanie said with a finality in her voice that kept Kate's mouth closed. "But you're also my best friend so I won't make you do things you don't want to do-"
"You'd do that if I wasn't your best friend?" Kate interrupted.
"Kate," Lanie warned.
"I mean, if you're really happy with Tom then I didn't say anything, but you should be sure about what you really want, okay," Lanie said. "And if that's Demming then it's okay. Just … be sure."
Kate closed her eyes, dropped her head against the headrest and sighed. She knew Lanie was right. And she also knew what she had to do, had known that even before the conversation they just had. She just wished it would be less scary.
"But what if it goes all wrong?" Kate finally asked quietly.
"Then you can blame me for everything."
A smile crept on her face, small and hesitant but there nonetheless.
"I will remind you."
"I know you will."
"Okay, I need to go home now, so … bye."
"Okay drive safe."
"Oh and Lanie?"
At the end of the day, after closing the case, Kate still hadn't managed to talk to Castle. Frankly, she had just found the time to talk to Tom and having the conversation with Castle before the conversation with Tom had not been an option. But now there were no excuses anymore.
She took a breath before she entered the break room, where everyone was enjoying pizza and beer, listening to Castle's story about seeing Alexis off to her college experience.
"Castle, do you have a second?" she asked after grabbing a beer.
"Of course. Yeah," he said, got up from his seat and followed her out of the break room.
"What's up?" he asked when they stopped in the bullpen.
"Look," she started. "I know that I'm not the easiest person to get to know and I don't always let on what's on my mind. But this past year, working with you, I've had a really good time."
"Yeah, me too."
"So, I'm … I'm just going to say this, and I hope it's not too late, but I would understand if it was. I mean you asked more than once, and I kept saying no so you probably-"
"Oh right … okay just … does the invitation still stand?"
"I … to the Hamptons?"
"I mean I know you asked Lanie, but-"
"Wait, you talked to Lanie?"
"She's my best friend."
"Yeah so as I said, I understand if I am too late but if I am not, then I would like to come to the Hamptons with you."
Castle blinked, opened his mouth to say something, but couldn't find any words. This was nothing he had expected today. What happened to her plans with Demming?
The silence went on and Kate nodded to herself. Of course, she had taken too long to talk to him. Even if he only had invited Lanie because she had declined, it was foolish to think he would still want her to come.
But this was exactly why she had been hesitant to agree. And if Lanie hadn't intervened, then she could now spend her weekend with Tom, who wanted her there.
But no. No, she had done the right thing, breaking up with Tom, even if Castle didn't want her to come with him. He would come back in the fall, until then she could find better words to explain everything. Maybe she'd even manage to talk to him over the summer.
Not everything was lost, even if it felt like it right now.
"Okay," she finally said quietly, ready to turn around and lick her wounds in private.
"No, not too late," Castle hurried to say when he finally got over his initial surprise. "I'm just surprised. But yes, the invitation still stands if you want to come and I would love if you came with me."
She visibly relaxed after hearing these words, a smile blossomed on her face
"Great," she said. "Because I do want to come with you."
Upon hearing these words, a bright, genuine smile settled on Castle's face. The sight of it made Kate blush and lower her head for a second.