A/N: Okay, just to warn you guys right off the bat, this is the longest chapter up to date. Kay, also, I apologize ahead of time for my abuse of italics, this chapter turned into a chapter filled with arguments, and it's hard to convey the emphasis and strain they put on their words without italics, but still, you've been warned.
I'd also like to note that if you've ever been in an argument with someone...they don't always make sense.
I wanted to get this chapter out before the finale, in case (on the off chance) there is something similar in it to the events in the finale this Monday, I can say mine was here first and I did not copy a thing. ^^
Lastly, at the end? Blame Talldude, it's all his fault. XD
Kate ate her breakfast, chatting lightly with Terin and Zoë, learning a bit about the ship and some of what had happened in the four years Castle was absent from Serenity. They even got her to laugh with a tale of a mix up with a particularly aggressive LoveBot, forcing Terin to endure 'Natalya's' overtures for a week before it's proper owner showed up. Terin had shuddered throughout as he recounted the tale.
They heard Castle and River's indistinct voices quite and the beginning of footsteps.
"Ah, here comes the Cap'n now." Zoë said with a pointed look at Beckett.
"Um, right, well, I've got to get going." Beckett said and cleared out of the kitchen before Zoë could even ask what she could possibly have to do. Terin gave his friend a look across the table.
"You think something happen?" He asked her.
Zoë furrowed her brow. "I'm not sure, it's hard to know what's going on in that head of hers. Mayhaps the Cap'n screwed something up."
"They're somethin' of a mystery, huh?"
"They're certainly…somethin'." Zoë answered, surprised that Beckett hadn't stuck around for even a good morning to the Captain. As far as she could tell, they were practically inseparable. The woman soldier shook her head to clear it, she still needed to sit Mal down and talk about his leaving them again. In fact at that moment he walked in, his face drawn and pensive, oddly looking more like he used to then he had since coming aboard. Zoë opened her mouth to start the conversation that they needed to have, but before she could, Mal interrupted her.
"Have you seen Beckett?"
Zoë felt something angry twist in her.
"You just missed her." Terin answered.
"Oh." Castle nodded. "I'll go find her."
"I think you and I need to have a chat." she said, her voice commanding. "Sir." she added after a moment.
"About what?" he asked, his voice suddenly hard. Terin shifted awkwardly in his seat. He was used to Zoë being in command, with the occasional deferral to River, but this was different. Zoë had given the captaincy back to the man she called Malcolm Reynolds, but she was having a harder time falling back into the position of first mate than she had thought. She wanted to know what was going on, and didn't appreciate him running off for Beckett every time she needed to have a conversation with him. Zoë shot Castle a sharp look and directed her eyes to the empty seat Beckett had just vacated.
"Fine." he spat out the word. "But make it quick." he said, sitting down lightly, and Terin was struck with the image of a panther coiling for it's deadly pounce. This man liked everyone to think he was a cuddly kitten, but Terin suddenly saw why Zoë would follow this man blindly to the ends of the 'verse. There was much more under the surface then he ever expected.
Zoë, now confronted with the situation of being able to talk to her captain, was unsure of what to say.
"Sir," she started. "Why is it you being so keen on leavin' us?" she said slowly, measuring out her sentence. He fell back against his chair and let out a rush of air, annoyed.
"Thought we already had this discussion, Zoë." he said exasperatedly.
"I reckon not…sir." it was a statement. They were going to talk about this.
"I'm leaving. And that's final." he spelled out, leaning abruptly forward, blue eyes dark and stormy.
"What is it that you have in the place you can't come back from that you have to get back to? Is it the money?" she asked, her anger getting the better of her.
He stood up, leaning over the table, over her, fury radiating off of him, and Zoë knew she had crossed one of the unseen lines that surrounded Malcolm. "If you think it's because of something as trivial as the money, you don't know me at all." he snarled.
"Then I don't understand, you have Beckett here, and I see the way you look at her. I imagine she could live happily here, as long as she was with you." Zoë said, getting riled herself, poor Terin frozen, looking between the two of them as they argued.
"You keep Beckett out of this." he threatened, voice low and enraged.
Zoë recognized she had made an even worse move instantly. She'd crossed a whole heap of invisible lines with that one. She had only seen Mal this upset a few times, and it was never pretty.
"I'm sorry, sir." she said, "But I just don't understand."
"I don't have time for this." he said, standing abruptly. "I have to go find Beckett." were his parting words as he strode from the room.
"You don't understand." River stated next to Zoë, causing her to jump with fright, not realized when River had joined them and stood beside her. "He has to go back, even if he wants to stay. You're making it harder."
"So he does want to stay?" Zoë asked.
River nodded. "Part of the pieces do, but he can't. Has to go back to the girl with red hair. The one that I remind him of."
"You said that earlier. Who's this girl?"
River turned her eerie eyes onto Zoë's dark ones. "Are you asking me to invade his personal thoughts?" she asked.
Terin was alarmed, had Zoë asked River to do that before?
"No, of course not. I just figured you knew." Zoë objected, causing Terin to relax, only to renew his anxiousness when River smiled wickedly at him.
"I just see flashes of her, sometimes she's laughing." River said to Zoë, her voice trailing off slightly as her eyes saw something none of them could see. "He's keeping pieces to himself." she frowned. "Can hardly keep things out, can't expect me to keep them in too. It hurts." she stated, pouting childishly, feeling the odd impulse to stomp her foot. "I need to find Simon." she said, the others unable to keep up with her thought processes.
Beckett had found her way to the Infirmary, wandering, trying to keep away from Castle. She had managed it so far for a few hours, but knew that the places she could hide were rapidly diminishing on this small ship. She figured this would be the last place he would look for someone with such a hatred and fear of hospitals. She was surprised to see Inara sitting on the table pulling up the loose, silky material she wrapped around her as an excuse for a shirt.
"The scans?" Inara asked quietly. Simon approached from behind, examining his pad with a furrowed brow. Then he smiled at Inara.
"Still clean, you may just be in the clear, you've been free of anything for nearly two and half years."
"I'd still like to keep ordering scans periodically, if you don't mind." she said.
He shook his head, "Not a problem, we may have to stop by Ariel for supplies in a month or two, but it's a perfectly understandable request." he acquiesced.
"Especially because you get paid for them." Inara teased.
Simon shrugged, "There's that too."
"Really, Simon." Inara said, grabbing his arm. "Thank you." she breathed, her warm eyes wide with sincerity.
He just nodded and soothing placed a hand on her shoulder. "Of course."
"You can come in now, Kate." Inara called out, causing the young doctor to wonder who she was talking about.
Beckett felt horrible for eavesdropping, even if it had been by accident, and walking in bashfully.
"Kate?" Simon asked, puzzled.
"First name." Inara replied, and he made an 'Ohhhh.' face, prompting Inara to chuckle. "I had the same reaction." she smiled, then turned her attention to Kate. "And I assume you're hiding from him."
Kate looked down at her toes, feeling like a young child in trouble.
"Yes, well, I believe that is my cue to leave." Simon said nervously, setting the pad down and exiting the infirmary.
"So? Have you spoken to him?" Inara asked, already knowing Beckett's answer.
"No." Kate said, saying the word like it had been drug up out of her against her will.
"And why not?" she asked, patting the space beside her, Kate moved and sat up on the table next to Inara.
"It's…it's just complicated."
"No, it's not." Inara replied back saucily. Kate sighed, swinging her legs. "Kate, do you want to know why I'm here? In the infirmary?" Inara asked her, taking the conversation a different way, but determined to work back to the subject.
"It's really none of my business." Kate stumbled through.
"I was dying. It was terminal, and there was very little I could do, but slow it down." she said, her voice free of any emotion, calm and even. "I left everything I knew, and boarded this ship…and met the captain." Inara smiled at the memory. "Kate, let me ask you, who was your first love?" she asked, changing the subject once more.
"Matthew Brantley, fourth grade." Kate smiled, remembering. "Had these gorgeous blue eyes." she added, laughing at herself. Apparently she had an unknown weakness for blue eyes.
"And did you end up with him?"
"Well, no. Of course not, it was fourth grade."
"Malcolm was my first love." Inara stated. "And I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous, but I was taken to the Training Guild when I was six, and, well, it had been the only way I had ever known. As Companions, we're trained to stay emotionally distanced from our clients, in the end, it's a business arrangement. I lived that way my entire life. Then…when I was diagnosed, and I knew I was going to die slowly, and probably painfully, I wanted to see…everything." she finished, the last word an exultant exhale. "And I fell in love with Mal. A really, stupid, foolish thing to do, but no one had ever evoked such strong emotions in me, and at that point, I could let myself feel that way towards someone for the first time. I was dying after all." she gave her a smile that managed to be both happy and sad. "Still, I'll never regret my feelings towards Mal, but I can see now that it would never have worked out for us. I will never cease to be a Companion, it's who I am, just as you will always be a…Detective?"
"But Mal, he loves you for that in a way he could never have loved me."
"Then…why did you stay on the ship?" Kate asked, trying to see what Inara's motivations were. Kate knew that Inara had said she no longer felt that way towards Castle, but that didn't mean it was the truth.
"He sacrificed himself for all of us, volunteering his life in exchange for all of us. We knew the Alliance would kill him. It would have been disrespectful to his memory to leave after that. He asked me to look after them, Zoë was still dealing with her Wash's murder and then in a few days from the discovery of her pregnancy. He asked me to keep them all together. Although I believe the credit should honestly go to River, as I wasn't in very good shape myself, as I knew one day, I would be taken from them as well."
"You're not sick anymore, are you?" Kate asked, needing to clarify her one fast friend so far would still be with her.
"River told Simon of my illness and he discovered an experimental treatment a few years ago, that to my great surprise, worked successfully. Just because I was no longer dying, I found that all my experiences, Mal included, had changed me too much to want to go back to the Madrassa house, and pursue my past goals there. It all seemed so very…petty. Now, all I want is for Mal to be happy, and even though I've only known you a short while, Kate, I can see he makes you happy, too. Don't continue to avoid him."
Inara slid off the table and to the ground, taking Kate's hand in her own. "I know it's scary, but when Mal loves, he loves with everything he has. He won't abandon you." she said, imparting that final wisdom before exiting the Infirmary, leaving Kate to think. After a few minutes she steeled herself and was determined to head towards the kitchen, she knew she would wind up meeting him there as he came and went along the ship. Inara was right, she could do this. Still, she didn't feel like herself, so she headed to her first to her bunk to pick up her leather jacket, something that made her feel tough and untouchable, silly though it may seem. She looked at her gun, lying innocently on the bunkside table.
She shouldn't take it. She had no reason to take it.
Ryan had quit wearing his the second day in. Be that as it may, Espo still wore his around, and even Castle had his low slung gun in its ever present holster. She was pretty sure Jayne wore his arsenal constantly, and even River had a large knife strapped to her ankle.
It would be fine, right?
She grabbed the gun.
She practically ran up the steps, partially hoping she would run into him, partially terrified of the possibility, but she made it to the kitchen without incident. She paced along the space, her agitation leaking through. She needed something to do, something to distract her till Rick got here. She sat down heavily in the chair and began dismantling her Glock. She unlocked the slide and let the round fall out, hitting the table with a thunk and took out the mag, checking visually and physically it was unloaded, and setting aside the ammunition. That was something that soothed her, making sure every piece was accounted for and clean, it gave a sense of control, knowing her gun was in top shape. She lined up the sights of the now empty gun, and pulled the trigger, snapping the slide back in place. She gripped said slide and pulled it forward slightly, pulled the two takedown levers down and took the slide off.
She heard Jayne and Javi's heavy footsteps as they approached and watched her take it systematically apart.
"Cleaning?" Javi asked.
"Yeah," Beckett said, taking out the spring and separating the barrel, putting them to the side. "Should have done it sooner." she said.
"Yeah, I cleaned mine out the say we got on ship since I had fired it. Castle said he'd find me some more bullets, even offered to get me a different gun." Javi grinned at the thought of adding another weapon to his substantial collect when he got back home.
"You like guns?" Jayne asked him, eyeing the Hispanic detective with new light.
Ryan headed through to the bridge, and stooped to watch Javier and Jayne watch Beckett. River was teaching how to work the computer piloting systems, and he had overheard Jayne's question.
"Are you kidding me? Javi bought me a .12 gage shotgun for my birthday. The man loves his guns."
"Yo, man. Why you gotta be like that?" Espo asked his partner.
"You took my wife and her friends out to the range and showed them how to shoot." Ryan answered, crossing his arms and giving Esposito a meaningful look.
"What? Jenny asked me to!" Javier defended.
"She cried!" Kevin exclaimed.
"Only the first time! She actually did really well!" he insisted.
"You brought a machine gun!" Kevin said, riled up.
"You got somethin' to clean it with, Tigerlilly?" Jayne interrupted their squabble with his question to Kate.
Taken aback by her River-designated nickname, the answer tumbled unbidden from her mouth. "N-No, I don't." she said and then shook her head.
"I'll git ya some." he rumbled, shifting off and vanishing.
Inara walked in the kitchen, saw Kate sitting stationary at the table, gave her a supportive smile and headed to the bridge. Companions were taught about every sort of weaponry, but Inara preferred things with more finesse and left them to their conversations.
Jayne Cobb reappeared with a large, rough cloth, which he spread out in front of her, and placed her gun parts on. He gave her a smaller, slightly stained rag and a brush for her barrel and a very worn looking toothbrush.
"What's its name?" he asked her, his voice a grumble.
"Jack." she replied after a moment, wondering if he was going to make fun of her like a few back at the precinct had for naming her gun. It had been something Royce had taught her as a newbie.
You name your gun, Kate. You name it, you cherish it, you take good care of it. If you do all that, it'll never let you down.
"That's a good one, steady." Jayne nodded with approval.
"You named your gun?" Ryan asked, being the newest one to the team not knowing.
"Yep, Javi does too."
"Really?" Kevin asked, leaning back and folding his arms, eyes speculative.
"It was a philosophy a buddy of mine practiced out in Iraq. His guns never jammed once, not once, Of course, his killer's gun didn't jam either. After that, I went through named them all." Javi said.
"So what you're saying is that your gun, right now, has a name?"
Javier nodded, feeling slightly self conscious about his admission. "Yes."
"What is it?" Kevin asked, curious.
"Beautiful dark haired woman." Jayne mused, surprising them with his knowledge, "Good name too. This here's Beatrice." he said, patting the LeMat revolver at his side.
"I've never named a gun in my life." Kevin stated.
"Maybe if you had, you wouldn't have lost yours." Beckett teased. "You named all your guns, Javi?" Beckett asked him, impressed.
"Every last one." he nodded, and that meant a lot of names.
"Remind me to show Vera off to you later, I think you're a man who can appreciate her." Jayne said, taking a liking to this fella.
It was at that moment that Castle walked into the kitchen, his shoulders tense, eyes weary. He stopped when he saw them all, and then locked eyes with Beckett, the woman who had somehow evaded him till nearly lunchtime.
"Well, River wanted to teach me those computer systems, I best be getting over to her." Ryan said, inching towards the bridge.
"You know what, I think I'll join you." Javi said. "C'mon Jayne." he invited, the gruff man reading between the lines and following silently behind him. This way he could keep an eye on these two with River, she'd been acting all kinds of mightily strange lately.
And then it was just Kate and Rick.
"You've been avoiding me." Castle said softly, pulling the chair beside her out, but not yet sitting down, giving her the opportunity to tell him to leave her alone.
She winced, but to his surprise, nodded in agreement.
"Sorry." she said, looking up at him apologetically. She swallowed and seemed to steel herself. "But I want that to change." she said honestly. Oh, Dr. Burke would be proud. He nodded and sat down slowly, heavily beside her.
"So...that kiss isn't going to be another thing that we never talk about?" Castle asked her, methodically taking apart his Moses Brothers' Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B pistol and spacing apart the pieces alongside her fragmented Glock.
"No." she said firmly.
"No?" he repeated, caught off guard by her straightforward answer.
"No." she repeated, smiling as she picked up a part of her gun and began working the cloth over it.
"Sooooo... In that case, I liked it. We should do it all the time." he said, his insistence purposefully childlike, trying to ease the tension.
"Yeah," Kate agreed, shocking him once more, but he couldn't catch her eyes as she was still studying and wiping down the Glock components. "It was nice." she said, her voice soft. He couldn't help the wide grin the erupted across his face, the expression too happy to be called smug.
"And that thing you did with your tongue—"
"Castle!" she reprimanded, but couldn't disguise her smile. Ignoring his previous statement, she handed him the cloth she had been using so he could wipe down his own dismantled gun. He took it, purposefully sliding his fingertips along her knuckles, down the lengths of her fingers and gently took the rag from her. Her chest constricted with the sharp spark of sensation that followed his touch.
"I want to work on talking things out with you, Rick." she said, his first name startling him briefly as he cleaned the segments of his weapon, but reveling in the sound of ease in which it was used. "And I know I'm not very good at it, but I want to try, I want this thing to work." she said, her brow furrowing with the concentration she was putting into her words.
"I want that too, Kate. So much." he said, his voice nearly straining with all that he wanted with her.
"I don't want–I don't want any more misunderstandings between us anymore. No more secrets." she said, her voice gathering strength as she spoke.
Instantly guilt assaulted him, his conversation with River this morning stabbing against his conscience like so many sharp needles. She saw his stricken look and felt something in her heart plummet.
"Rick?" she asked, trying to keep the smile from slipping off her face.
He looked away from her, down at his hands in his lap, fiddling with the stained rag.
"Kate? There is something I need to tell you." he gave a humorless laugh. "And you'll probably hate me for it." he said, shifting in his chair uncomfortably.
"Castle? You're starting to scare me." she said, trying to come off light, but failing. He noticed she switched back to his last name in her anxiety.
"I've been investigating your mother's case." he said, hoping it would be like a Band-Aid, or duct tape, better to rip it right off. He kept his eyes down and continued. "After." he swallowed with difficulty. "After you were shot, I–" he sucked in a shuddering breath, "I got a call from a man, called himself Mr. Smith. He said he was an old friend of Roy's." he said, and risked a glance over at Kate. Big mistake. Her eyes were dark and glossy, betrayal and hurt reflecting in their depths. Her mouth had drawn into a tight line, and she was valiantly trying to keep her breathing in measured increments. Yet, he couldn't stop now. "He told me that Roy had sent him a package, a package of damning evidence on whoever tried to kill you, but that it hadn't reached him in time." Castle's voice roughened with barely restrained emotion when he had to speak about her shooting. "And you were almost killed." he said, his chest nearly heaving with having to recount it all. "Mr. Smith said that if you kept investigating, they would try to kill you again, Montgomery's evidence or not."
"You asked me to stop." she managed, that one sentence wavering, showing how close to losing her control she really was.
Castle nodded somberly.
"But you…you didn't, did you?" she asked, her voice falling to a whisper.
"I couldn't." he said, the words strangled and loud. "But there was so little to go on." he said, his words strained with his desperation. "Then I got a little bit of a break on the case with the mayor, I called Mr. Smith, but didn't get much beyond thinly veiled threats and shadowy insults. Apparently I'm no more than a useful pawn in their games." he said, a tad of sarcasm biting through. He sighed, settled himself, and continued. "I don't have much, Kate, but it's more than what we started with." He finished quietly, compulsively running the dirty rag over the unscrewed cylinder of his gun. "I'm sorry, I should have told you sooner." he whispered, bringing his eyes to hers since he had glanced over, trying to will all his sincerity, his love, into his eyes alone.
Castle startled when Kate abruptly stood, her chair making a loud grating noise against the floor, nearly tipping and falling with the force of being pushed back so hard.
"Kate?" he asked as he looked up at her, her eyes screwed shut, palms flat against the table, her hair falling around her face. Her bottom lip was drawn tightly in over her teeth, making the skin go white.
Without preamble she turned and began walking single-mindedly towards the bridge. Castle jumped up quickly to follow her. She swept in the cockpit, a twisted coil of anger and hurt. Everyone ceased speaking as soon as she appeared and turned to look at her. She closed her too glossy eyes once, nearly spilling her tears, but kept them at bay, gathered herself, and angled to Javier and Kevin.
"Did-did you know?" she asked them, her hands out and low, fingers tense. She needed them to be honest.
"About what?" Javier asked, confused, concerned and scared about what could have Beckett so rattled.
"My mother's case." she said, barely holding on to her composure, on the edge of breaking. Kevin met her gaze anxiously, but steadily. Javi looked up at her from his seat, his brown eyes already asking for understanding.
"Yeah, yeah we did." he answered calmly, but not apologizing for what they did. Rick had caught up by that point, standing uneasily behind her. "Okay." Kate answered after a breath, giving a jerky nod, more to herself then to them. She spun of her heel and began to stalk back through the hallway, walking past Castle.
"Kate." he called out softly. She put her hand up, cutting him off.
"I think you've said enough, Castle." she said, the syllables bitter and callous. He felt his unspoken words turn to ash in his mouth, the taste of them empty and useless. He stood frozen there, he looked over at his crew, seeing confusion and pity. He felt the old, familiar anger surge up through him, wrecking his insides with it.
"Damn it!" he swore loudly, throwing the smooth cylinder still in his hand against the metal walls of Serenity, the harsh clang making the crew members jump at the unexpected outburst of violence.
"Well?" Inara stated, the first to regain composure, and gave Castle an arched look. "Go after her!" she said.
"You don't understand, Inara." he choked back a bark of laughter. "It doesn't work like that. I screw up and she runs." he said, practically spitting the words out.
"She's all broken, Tigerlilly." River said suddenly into the silence. "Afraid you'll slice your fingers trying to pick up the pieces. Doesn't want you to bleed anymore." She said, staring forward. "Even if you're the only one that can put her back together. She needs you. Hurry up! Go!" she commanded, causing Castle to jerk, a single hesitation, before quickly going after Kate.
River smiled and chuckled to herself. "All the King's horses and all the King's men, no. But the King? The King can."
"They'll be okay then?" Jayne asked, apprehensive about the Cap'n and Kate not getting along. They didn't need a tetchy captain.
"They will be, it needs some time. We should stay put for now, no more interruptions." River decided and all those standing in the bridge began the process of settling in, they would probably be here for a while.
He called after her, desperate and pleading. She felt her feet pick up the pace. No, he was breaking the rules, that wasn't how things worked. He wasn't supposed to come after her, he was supposed to stay away while she tried to tape herself back together and then she would return to him, with refortified walls and a few new plates of armor tightened down. He couldn't see her like this.
She felt his fingers enclose on her arm and she instinctually whirled around, PTSD controlling the moment, controlling her body, stealing it from her, making her automatically throw a blow to his head.
Moving fast with a prowess he normally never exhibited, Rick dodged the attack, caught her arm and pulled it tight across her chest, Kate launched her free hand at him, not even sure what she would do if her aim connected. Twisting, he snatched her moving wrist, crossing her arms and holding them down. She fought against his grip, the panic of being caught taking over momentarily, erasing the police training that would allow her to break his hold, before he shifted, using his greater muscle mass to keep her still, bringing her tight against him.
She wiggled wildly, "Damn it, Castle! Let go of me!"
"No." he growled, his face close to hers, both of them breathing heavily from the brief struggle.
God, he was just so close, his thighs brushing hers, the swoop of their hip bones bumping, the angry heat of him suffocating her, burning the air around her. She could feel the push of his chest with each breath, his hands low, nearly at her hips if not still restraining her wrists.
He wasn't faring much better, her skin so soft and tempting under his hands, something primitive in his brain enjoying being physical with her. For them, tactile comfort was given only when absolutely necessary, and they always carefully limited all somatic contact. That was playing with fire after all, something they both carefully skirted around, this thing between them, this writhing, boiling thing, that would incinerate them if it was given the chance.
Kate suddenly felt something much different then outrage slide through her veins, and she looked up at him for the first time since he'd grabbed her. Her gaze scalded him, her aphotic eyes intent with something that made fire lick at his body and slide heatedly through his capillaries. She could practically see his eyes darken, pupils expanding, black overtaking blue. He roughly released her, pushing her away from him.
"Don't." he cleared his throat. "Don't you do that." he said, his voice arousal raw.
She felt the bitter sting of rejection snuff out the feverish desire instantly, re-provoking the betrayal and fury. She took a second to steady herself, to ready her words, acerbic and barbed.
"How could you do this to me?" she asked, unable to meet his eyes, going back to the argument at hand, bring purposefully contentious.
"How - how could I do this to you? Are you serious?" he asked her, insulted and infuriated.
Good, she couldn't break if she was too busy yelling.
"Yes, Castle. How could you. Do this. To me." she reiterated caustically.
"Like you haven't lied to me about something just as important!" he said, voice raised.
Well, that one stung.
The truth hurts, Kate.
Dammit, she did not need her inner Dr. Burke to act up right now.
"Did you even mean it?" she accused, shifting things off of herself. She didn't even have to clarify, both knowing exactly what she was referring to. She waited for the imminent enmity, the resentment, but was shocked at the way his face twisted into anguish, to hopelessness and heartbreak.
"Did I –?" he started, his tongue feeling heavy and sluggish.
Then abruptly his features morphed into something else, something acrimonious and virulent. She was stunned at the strength of emotion playing out on his face, so she didn't move when he strode forward, his long legs eating up the distance between them in two long paces. He grabbed her arm harshly and dragged her sideways, pushing her into a room, the walls orange like all the passenger dorms, but much smaller, and empty of furniture excepting a few dusty bags in one corner and a dilapidated crate in the other. He turned and locked the door behind him, trapping them together.
No, no, no.
That wasn't how it was supposed to go, one of them was intended to back off, to run, to leave. They always left, why did he always have to be different?He was breathing heavy again, but the vitriolic intent had left his eyes, leaving them hollow and achingly sad. He straightened, turned to her, unleashing the full blow of his sincere and pained cerulean eyes on her, but there was steel in his voice, a tautness to his posture when he spoke.
"How could you even think that?" his demand oddly quiet.
"Extenuating circumstances." she stated, her simmering ire keeping her words from faltering, from revealing her fears that it had been a heat of the moment thing, because she was dying, and he didn't really feel that way. No matter how much evidence spoke to the contrary.
"Don't you ever say I didn't mean it." his voice low, nearly a threat if it weren't for his glassy, red rimmed eyes.
How in the worlds had they turned the fact that he loved her into a fight?
She swallowed, and he was unable to tear his eyes away from the movement of muscle along the column of her throat, remnants of desire and need still scorching low in his stomach. She couldn't meet his gaze.
"Why would you even have to ask?" he asked, his voice dismal, surrounded by the foreboding, heavy feeling he had already been defeated.
"Because, god, Rick, I'm so broken. Can't you see that?" she asked, her walls slipping, bearing her vulnerability, exposing her insecurity.
Couldn't he see that no one could love something as twisted and guarded as herself with the level of devotion he was professing?
"And, what, you think I'm not?" he asked. Kate looked up at him, startled. She hadn't expecting a response like that, though it seemed he never did what she expected. "I'm damaged goods as Richard Castle, irresponsible, not just one, but two failed marriages, and the apparent ability to communicate with everyone but the woman I'm desperately in love with! Let alone adding Malcolm Reynolds into the mix. I fought in a war, Kate. You have no idea what that does to a man. I became a criminal, a thief, I ignored the people who loved me and hurt everyone around me, a habit it seems I haven't rid myself of."
"Then how come you never said it again?" she asked, the question slipping through her lips, some of her very real insecurity bleeding through, wavering her words.
"Said what?" he asked, momentarily lagging in her train of thought.
"That you…" she attempted, the words coming out strangled. "That you l–" she had to stop once more as emotion stole away her voice. She was so pathetic, she couldn't even say the damn words.
"You and I both know that you weren't ready, that you would have run, just like you are now." he stated, understanding what she was endeavoring to say, but trying to keep the frustration with her out of his tone.
"Nowhere for me to go here." she stated stubbornly, jutting out her jaw, folding her arms defensively over her chest.
He was hit with the realization that she wanted him to say it. It made his heart clench with some unknown emotion too intense to name, and his anger crumbled. He walked forward, invading her personal space, lowing his head closer to hers.
"I love you, Kate." he said quietly. "I love you so much it hurts."
She closed her eyes, and bit her bottom lip hard enough to draw blood. He reached up and gently took her arms, ignoring the way she stiffened away, uncrossing them and running his hands up and down them soothingly, warming her and simultaneously giving her goosebumps. A betraying tear slipped out of her tightly clenched eyes and slid down her cheek. No, no, no. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. He was supposed to be mad at her, and she was supposed to be mad at him. But she wasn't. He caught the salty drop with his mouth, placing the softest kiss to her skin. He shifted closer, wrapping his arms loosely around her, Kate's unwilling stance still resisting, and slid his cheek against hers, his light stubble scratching slightly, making her shiver at the sensation.
"Don't." she barely managed to whisper, her walls wobbling, threatening to collapse, and leave her defenseless and wounded in front of him.
"I love you." he breathed softly into her ear, his exhale warm and tickling, and he felt her start to fall against him. He moved down to the underside of her jaw, tasting the saline trails of her soundless tears. They were both hurt, her from his lies, and him from her doubt, but they could change it, change this stupid pattern that constantly kept them apart, that stole too many summers with her from him.
"Wo ài ni." he emphasized, moving down the line of her jaw, unable to stop the slight smile he knew she'd be able to feel against her skin. He was aware she liked it when he spoke in Chinese, a little tidbit of information he would be using to his advantage. He couldn't play fair against Beckett's vast arsenal of emotional battlements. The smallest of sobs escaped her control and he tenderly constricted his hold on her. "I love you. Zhème duō." he repeated into her soft hair before laying a kiss to her temple. Her legs felt unsteady beneath her, and she felt his arms tighten, bracing her as she quietly fell apart.
"I love you, Kate." he murmured, "Nothing else matters." he said, holding her as she slowly slid down the wall to the floor, his body cradling hers, gently shushing her as she broke and cried into his chest. He whispered assurances of his love constantly as she finally relinquished control in a way she hadn't since her shooting, really since her mother's death, letting someone see her at her worst, when she was weak. She curled up in the v of his legs, as he affirmed his constancy, switching effortlessly between English and Chinese.
When Kate had emptied herself of all the pain and sadness, he went on to explain all he knew about her mother's case, about Mr. Smith, even quoting verbatim pieces of conversations he'd had with the mystery man. He told her every little detail he could possibly remember, occasionally backtracking and adding something as it came to him. She listened quietly, asking soft questions now and again. When he was finally finished, spent of all the words he had, she confided in him. Telling Rick all her fears, occasionally having to stop as fresh tears overcame her, but she was determined to express to him of how she wasn't really upset about his lies, but of her all encompassing terror of losing him. After all, if they had tried to kill her, what would stop them from trying to do the same to him?
"I'm not just a writer, Kate." he told her quietly, not dismissing her feelings, but needing her to understand that he could take care of himself, that he wasn't something she needed to constantly worry about protecting.
"I know, Rick." she whispered back, looking up at him, her back to his warm, solid chest. She fiddled absentmindedly with a button, "But if something happened to you…I don't think there would be anything left, and it scares me. I wouldn't be able to go on, and what about Alexis? How on earth would I be able to explain that I was the reason you were killed? How could I do that?" she asked, her voice hoarse with the intensity of what she was trying to say. "And you've trusted me to take care of her if something should happen…and I don't think I could, not without you." she tried to convey the importance of what she was saying.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked her, needing her to take point, to tell him what to do.
"I want you to stop investigating. No more." she said, wincing against the pain a statement caused her.
"I won't let you start looking into it." he stipulated in a low voice.
She bit down on her lip, sending a silent apology to her mom, requesting forgiveness for not being able to find the men behind it all, for not bringing them to justice, but she finally had something, someone, to live for, and she wanted to live. She was tired of constantly losing everything to that damn case. She felt that her mom would probably understand that.
"I know." she admitted quietly.
"What are you saying, Kate?" he asked, feeling his own tears burn at the back of his eyes. Was she saying what he's thinking she's saying?
"I don't want to sink into that rabbit hole anymore, Rick. I just…" she couldn't get the words out, and used the one avenue of correspondence she had left, craning her head up and attacking his lips with her own, kissing him with a desperation edging on hunger. The angle was odd, and they would probably have sore necks later, but none of that mattered, she loved him, even if she hadn't said the words. He didn't need the words, not when her actions spoke so clearly. She was giving up on the driving force of over half her life for him. Damn it, he would not cry, he was a grown man. He wouldn't, he wouldn't.
He clutched her to him, fingers probably bruising, shifting them slightly so that she was more straddling his lap and facing him, allowing him to slip his tongue past the seal of lips, deepening the kiss. His hands traveled up to her shoulders, sliding in between her jacket and the soft cotton of her purple shirt, pushing the brown coat down her arms. Her fingers left his face to shrug off the jacket, only to return once it had been thrown off. She worked them back up, sliding through his soft hair in a way she hadn't felt since that adrenalin fueled kiss in the alley way forever ago, a contact that had haunted her with it's intensity, yet was blown out of the water by their current uncontrolled lip lock.
He broke off the kiss roughly, gritting his teeth as the silky material of her pants made contact against the soft cotton of his trousers, his head hitting the back of the wall, a short hiss escaping as she moved sinuously in his lap, a torturous friction. She leaned forward, serving to press herself harder down on him, eliciting a groan from him as he struggled to keep his hips still, causing her to grin wickedly, and also to reconnect their lips. They poured everything they felt into the contact, breathing heavily between gasps and kisses, letting it overwhelm them, pull them under.
Kate's fingers nimbly worked on his buttons, letting her agile touch move against his skin, the muscles fluttering under her burning, feather-light touch, while one of his hands slipped under the back of her shirt, sliding up her spine, leaving a trail of fire in their wake. He left her mouth to work fiery kisses down her throat, feeling her body jerk slightly when he laved his tongue along her neck. God, it was just so much, he was everywhere, her senses overloaded by him. Her breathy moan nearly undid him, and he tangled his free hand in her hair roughly, and Rick worked down to her exposed collar bone, biting it gently as the hand under her shirt spanned the expanse of her ribs, her scars warmed under his palm, his thumbs brushing against the underside of her bra, sending up half sensations, making a shudder work its way down her back.
A loud knock at the door, had them breaking apart abruptly, like two teenagers caught in the act.
"Wèi! River says you two'er done talkin' and ta git yur pìgu up to the bridge, there's somethin' Zoë is needin' to discourse with ya." Jayne's crass voice hollered through the door.
"Fine!" Castle shouted out, frustrated about being interrupted, but Kate just chuckled quietly into his chest.
"Well? Ya comin' or not?"
"We'll be there in a minute, god!" Rick shouted exasperatedly back at the merc, realizing he was still outside the door. Kate stood and he instantly missed the feel of her body, the heat of her against him. She offered her hand and he took it, both of them looking at each other. She was trying to suppress a laugh, her eyes twinkling.
"It's okay, Rick. It's not like it's the end of the world, we'll make time for it later." she laughed softly, stepping close to him, redoing his buttons. It was a domestic thing that pulled at his heart, and she reached up to straighten the suspenders he had put on this morning without a thought.
"Not now?" he asked with a wince, running his hand through his hair, trying to straighten it from where her own fingers had mussed it. She straightened her own shirt, hiding away the red marks of his teeth scraping along her collarbone. He retrived her jacket and slid it up her arms, fingers pausing at her skin, gently pulling her hair free of the collar. She was glad he hadn't nibbled her neck, she wouldn't have been able to hide them with her current clothing choices, zipped up jacket or no.
She chuckled throatily at his familiar question, a dark sound, full of promise.
"Not now." she replied, turning back to him and kissing him, still grinning. "If you don't mind, I'd like to keep this thing between us, at least for a little while." she asked him softly.
He dismissed the thought of cracking a joke of her being ashamed of him, but he didn't want to make light of her feelings. "Okay." he murmured against her mouth, little lightning bolts of sensation zinging wherever he had contact with her as the kiss slowly intensified. Their tongues slid languorously along each other unhurriedly, knowing that there would never be anyone else, and that they could take their time.
"We should go see what Zoë wants." she said, before they got carried too far once more.
He growled against her mouth, making heat slice through her insides. Yet, he knew she was right, but later, he and his first mate would have words. He stepped away from her, unable to force himself not to touch her, like they used to before.
"Just - just give me a second." he murmured, his lips at her forehead, arms gripping her shoulder, keeping her close, trying to get his body back under control. She grinned up at him, eyes glittering, and bit down on her lip, empowered by how effected by her he was. That wasn't helping, so he closed his eyes and tried to compartmentalize the sensation of Beckett biting down on his own lip away so he could concentrate. He began mentally running through some of the more boring passenger permits they had gone through yesterday. After a moment he sighed, and stepped back. "All right, let's go." he said reluctantly, unlocking the door, the hallway presently Jayne free, and headed towards the bridge of his boat.
Wo ài ni - I love you
Zhème duō - So much
Wèi - Hey
Pìgu - ass
"Can hardly keep things out, can't expect me to keep them in too. It hurts." Which was a thought given to me by TheBlackSluggard in their review of Chapter 15 (I asked for permission to use it, but felt it still deserved a credit.)
"All the King's horses, and all the King's men..." is from the rhyme Humpty Dumpty attributed to 'Mother Goose'.
A/N: Javi's gun's name (Morena) shares the name with the actress who plays Inara.
Jon Huertas (Javier Esposito) really did buy Seamus Dever (Kevin Ryan) a .12 gage shotgun, though I believe it was for Christmas.
Jon did indeed take Seamus's real life and TV wife Juliana (Jenny) and her friends out to a shooting range (with machine guns) and she did cry. Though I might have too, if it were me. Then I would promptly shoot the hell outta some targets. :)
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