This first chapter was written by another FF writer. I kick off at Chapter 2. Look forward to hearing what you all think.
Author's note: (REDGREYBULL) I'm stuck on the aftermath of Beckett's unwitting confession in the interrogation room in 47 Seconds. Circling around and around in my mind, for months. So many different ways it could have gone.
Here's another, if Castle actually recognised that her admission was a big step, even if she hadn't intended him to hear. Long-time readers will recognise the first scene as being almost verbatim from my other tale, Down, but we'll branch off into a different reality from there.
Castle watched Beckett through the glass, full of admiration. This extraordinary woman, capable of such strength and fearlessness, but also able to be tender — as she seemed more and more willing to show him lately.
The young male suspect was evading her questions, but he was flustered, frightened, and clearly grasping at straws.
She stalked around him, changing position, never letting him finish a sentence. Relentless. Breaking down his defences. Wearing away his resistance, and his ability to lie.
She's… magnificent, Castle thought, allowing himself a grin.
She had the suspect cornered now, with no more excuses. The man was trying to claim that he'd had a lapse in memory, and the disdain was evident on Beckett's face.
She parked herself on the edge of the table, just a foot away from the young man, crowding him and staring right through him.
Going in for the kill, Castle thought.
"You don't get to use that excuse," she said darkly, pointing at the frightened man. He tried again to claim he couldn't remember, that he was suffering from traumatic amnesia, but she cut him off.
"The hell you don't remember!"
Go get him, Kate.
"Do you want to know trauma?" she spat.
Castle gave the barest hint of a grin. He loved to watch her work. This was her in her element. A lioness.
"I was shot in the chest,–"
His brow creased.
"–and I remember every second of it."
It was over.
Leann West had been taken into custody by the FBI, and Gates had just finished telling them all to go home and get some rest. Castle, Beckett, Ryan and Esposito were still standing in a loose cluster near her desk.
Beckett turned towards the three men.
"You know what? I'm still kind of wired. You guys want to go out for a drink?"
Ryan smiled apologetically. "Ah… sorry, it feels like a month since I've seen Jenny. I should really get home."
Beckett nodded sympathetically, as Esposito glanced first at his partner, and then at her.
"Me too," he said. "I'm tanked. I'll holler at ya."
Both men nodded their farewells, then walked off, and Beckett now turned towards Castle. She felt her stomach twist with nervousness, but also anticipation.
"So I guess it's just us," she said, looking at him carefully. He glanced up at her.
"Yeah," he replied.
She took a breath before continuing.
"You know, now that the case is done… what did you want to talk about?"
He seemed to consider something for a moment, before giving the briefest shake of his head.
"It'll keep," he said with a small smile, putting his hands in his pockets. He glanced off toward the elevator, giving her the chance to look at him in profile.
He'd been a little quiet during the afternoon, but it had been a tough case. He told her he'd visited the memorial for the bomb victims with his mother, so she assumed that the loss of life was still weighing heavily on him. He looked around at her again, and she smiled.
"So… about that drink?"
He looked at her carefully for a long moment, and something passed across his eyes that she couldn't identify.
"Sure," he replied.
The Old Haunt was busy, but not unpleasantly so. Castle was given his usual semi-private booth at the back as soon as he walked in, and they were now on their second round of drinks.
There was a slight crease on Beckett's brow as she looked at him. "Everything OK?"
Castle put down his drink and smiled warmly at her. "Absolutely."
"Still thinking about the case?"
He shook his head. "Not really. Trying not to."
She nodded, then waited a few moments before speaking again. "But there's something on your mind."
It wasn't a question, but he tilted his head to one side in acknowledgement.
"Just… you," he said, and upon seeing her raised eyebrow, he gave a small laugh. "I mean, you've…"
He tailed off, shaking his head slightly but still smiling. Her curiosity was piqued now, and she made a show of narrowing her eyes at him. "I've…?"
Castle looked down at the scarred wooden surface of the table for a couple of seconds before meeting her eyes again, then he shrugged. "You've come a long way, that's all. It's good to see."
"Come a long way how?" she asked, watching him take another sip of his drink.
"In a lot of ways," he replied, and she pursed her lips in mock annoyance.
"That's cryptic," she said, and again there was the shadow of something passing across his eyes, but this time it looked like a glint of both amusement and affection.
"Doesn't have to be," he said quietly, looking down at the table again, now running the pad of his finger over a gouge in the wood.
"I just mean… this'll sound weird, and it's not supposed to, but… I'm proud of you, Kate. You're a different person than you were a few months back."
She schooled her features to hide the surprise she felt, and she took another sip of her own drink. She didn't want to read too much into his words, but a part of her was desperate to think that he had somehow realised she really was making progress, and was much closer to being the person she wanted to be.
"Well, thanks. I think," she said, willing him to look up at her again even though his eyes remained fixed on the table top. "What's brought this on?"
His finger traced restless little circles against the varnished bumps of the surface. He shrugged, and she frowned again.
"Castle," she said insistently, reaching part way across the table towards his hand but stopping short. "What's this about?"
He sighed, and finally looked up at her again. He gave her a smile that was wide but slightly sad, and she felt the first real stirrings of unease in her chest.
"I just wanted you to know. It wasn't easy, what you did today. I hope you're giving yourself credit. And I wanted to say that… I understand. There aren't any… just, I understand, and you should be proud of how far you've come."
Beckett wracked her brain, unable to figure out what he meant. It wasn't like him to talk in riddles, and there was an air of resignation about him, besides the earnest sentiment, that she didn't understand either.
"I have no idea what you're—"
"I was behind the glass," he interjected, his voice quiet and with the same warm and vaguely sad smile on his face. "There's no problem, and everything's fine. So if you've been… worrying about it, you don't have to anymore."
She still didn't know what he meant, but her pulse had quickened at his words. She now urgently needed him to tell her what exactly he was talking about. She gave her head a quick shake and opened her mouth to speak, but again he spoke first.
"With Bobby Lopez — the interrogation. I brought coffee, Espo said you were in the box. So… I was behind the glass."
Her mind raced, scrambling to put the pieces together. Lopez, the suspect who turned out to be a pickpocket. The backpack. He wasn't cooperating; he said he couldn't remem—
The ground seemed to tip sideways, and Beckett actually pressed her palms against the table top instinctively. She could practically feel the colour draining from her own face, and the background noise of the bar was temporarily replaced with a high-pitched whine. It was several seconds before she remembered to breathe.
"Kate," Castle said, "it's OK. It's alright."
But it wasn't alright. It wasn't alright at all. She was trying to speak, but there were no words, and she felt like she was inhaling under pressure, her lungs having to work harder to pull in oxygen. Everything seemed to have a veil of unreality, and she could feel a tingling in her fingertips that she recognised as the leading edge of a panic attack.
"That was a brave thing you did," Castle said, and she couldn't understand why he would say that. She'd lied to him — lied to him for months — and he'd told her that he loved her, and she'd said that some things were best forgotten, and now they were here and they were so close, but now he knew. He knew, and he'd found out second-hand, overhearing, as she told her secret to a thief just to get the advantage in an interrogation. He knew, and she hadn't had the chance to tell him properly, and now he was saying she was brave?
"Kate, listen to me," Castle said, reaching across to grasp one of her hands and tightening his grip when she tried to flinch away from him. "I know what you're thinking — I can imagine. I can see it on your face. But give yourself a break for a second, OK? What you did today was a huge step forward for you. It might not seem like it right now, but you're going to realise it later. And maybe… maybe it was fate, or something, that I heard. The important thing is that it's OK. You're OK."
She was taking measured breaths now, her heart thudding within her ribs, and she could feel tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. He was still holding her hand between both of his, and his smile was gone, replaced with a concerned look, but still with that edge of sadness that she could now hardly bear.
"I… I am so sorry," she whispered, but he only shook his head.
"No need to be," he replied. "I think… a part of me probably knew. Or suspected. Either way, it's done. There was no need to hold that inside. You could have just… but it doesn't matter now. What matters is that you don't need to worry about it anymore. I mean it."
He squeezed her hand again and then gently released it, sitting back in his chair again. He exhaled audibly, picked up his glass, and downed the remainder of his drink before sitting the glass carefully back down onto the table and staring at it without really seeing it. After a moment, he winced, as if some thought or memory had suddenly surfaced and then been pushed away again.
The young bartender chose that moment to wander over and ask if they'd like another round, and Castle nodded. Neither of them spoke until the drinks had been brought, and the bartender had gone away again.
"Castle, I…" Beckett began, unsure what she was going to say, but she tailed off and shook her head. Shame and guilt had risen up like a tide in her chest, and she was in shock at finally being faced with a situation she'd dreaded for months, and hoped to avoid altogether.
"Kate, it's OK," he said, before she could continue. "Think about what you were going through. You'd been… shot," he said, the last word almost in a whisper and his eyes flickering momentarily shut as he said it. "There was Roy. Your mother's case. Josh. Your PTSD. There was… everything that was going on."
He paled as she watched, and he reached for his second drink and took a swallow of it, then nodded mostly to himself before speaking again.
"You had all that stuff to deal with. Anybody would have done the same. I'm just sorry you felt you had to keep it all inside. I know it must have been hard. I never meant to…"
A tear spilled over her eyelashes and slid down her cheek. All the times she'd imagined this conversation, and all the different versions. Never once had she pictured him apologising to her, or for her.
His shirt sleeves were rolled up as usual, his forearms leaning heavily on the table now. Her eyes flicked down and she the gooseflesh all along his skin. Her gaze immediately snapped back up to his face, but his eyes were trained on his glass again, and unfocused. As she watched, something dark and awful surged across his face as his brow creased, and he inhaled roughly almost as if he was in physical pain. She could have sworn that his cheeks actually greyed, and the lines beneath his eyes became darker. Suddenly he was speaking again.
"I just… uh," he began, clearing his throat when his voice began to waver, "I owe you an apology for that, Kate. I… sometimes I still wonder if I should go to the hospital and talk to Josh. To say… to thank him, I suppose. Not just for saving your life, but for after. Especially. Because I know, wherever you were, you must have been in a dark place. I can still see it on your face sometimes. And you needed somebody."
He paused, seeming to reach into himself at great cost. "It took me a long time, but now I'm just grateful he was there. I don't understand why it took me so long to feel that way."
Beckett was paralysed; stunned, unable to speak, even though she desperately needed to. But Castle was talking again.
"I did go once, you know, about three weeks before the book signing, but he wasn't on shift that day. I, uh–"
Another waver in his voice. Again he cleared his throat.
"–I rehearsed what I was gonna say. Stood outside a Starbucks, talking to myself. I wanted to get it right. But he wasn't even there. I went in, and I asked at the desk, and I thought he'd just walk around the corner. Or be out in the parking lot, on his bike. Maybe even… with you. But he wasn't there."
He shook his head as if to clear it, and took a gulp of his drink.
Beckett tried to speak, but couldn't. She felt like all the breath had been knocked out of her. It was all happening right now — right in front of her. This conversation. Everything at once. And he was apologising for putting her in the position of having to lie? It was all wrong. It was so completely Castle, but it was all wrong.
And god, he'd gone to the hospital to thank Josh for being there for her, which as far as he knew was what had happened during those three absent months.
"It's all in the past," he said suddenly, after a long silence. "So… you should just give yourself credit where it's due."
He looked exhausted now, his face noticeably paler than it had been earlier, and his eyes were dim. His hand was still gripping the glass. He looked up at her again, but his gaze just bounced off her face and returned to the table surface.
"I still do, you know," he said, very quietly. "I'm not pushing. That's the last thing you need — I know that. No pressure. I'm not asking for anything, and I'm not even asking you to say anything, OK? I just… you should know, for what it's worth. It wasn't just because I… didn't know if I'd get another chance."
He winced, as if feeling physical pain, and she knew it was the memory of that day on the vivid green grass under a blue sky.
"I mean, that's why I spoke, but it wasn't the reason for what I said. It was just the truth. Still is. I still do."
He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but then he just exhaled in a single rush of air, having spent all his energy.
Beckett's fists were clenched in her lap. She was having trouble processing just how much had happened in such a short time. It felt like her heart had been ripped in two, but for him instead of herself.
She wiped at her eyes, but her cheeks were surprisingly dry. She supposed she was too shocked to have shed more than a couple of tears. Her mind still felt frozen.
Across from her, Castle picked up his glass and drained it in a swallow, setting it back down with a bump. He seemed somehow deflated in his chair; hunched over, unable to fully support his own frame. She was about to reach out towards him when they both heard Lanie's voice ring out from nearby.
"Hey girl! I knew you'd be here. Hey Castle."
Lanie was still in the clothes she wore when going to and coming home from work, and Beckett knew she must have come straight from the morgue. It wasn't surprising that she wanted a drink too, given the awful case.
"Oh… hi, Lanie," Beckett said, clearing her throat. She glanced across at Castle, and saw that he had a welcoming smile on his face, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Hi yourself," Lanie said, taking off her leather jacket and sitting it on top of Beckett's, along the edge of the booth. "Want to slide in and make some room?"
Beckett was about to respond when Castle cleared his throat and abruptly slid out of his side of the booth.
"Here you go," he said, gesturing to the space he'd just vacated. "I was actually just going to head out."
Lanie frowned, glancing quickly at Beckett and then back at Castle, but he gave her a disarming smile. "Just a really long day, and I think I need to check on Alexis."
The look of suspicion on Lanie's face was immediately replaced with understanding and compassion. "She went home a while ago. She's strong. A little quiet today, but she insisted on being there. You'd have been proud."
That word again, Beckett thought, silently cursing this ultimate example of the bad timing that seemed to characterise their whole relationship. Castle was nodding and saying something to Lanie, and now he pulled on his blazer again.
"Well, have a good night, ladies," he said, nodding to them both before letting his gaze rest on Beckett for a moment. His eyes were dark, and there was still a hint of sadness in them.
"I'll see you Monday," he said, then he turned and walked away.
Author's note: I'm going to leave it there, but let's try something different this time: I invite you to write the next part of the story. I'd love to see people's own interpretations of what might happen. If you do, publish it on FF, and PM me to let me know (or get me on Twitter or such; you can find info via my author page here). I've already seen a great follow-up to this story: "Nothing to be Proud of", by madcrafter72.
Have a great weekend.
OK, I kick off the story from this point on. KB31419RC