Disclaimer: I don't own Castle.

Spoilers: General Castle, maybe a bit heavier on the beginning of Season 3.

Setting: Mid-Season 3, after Castle has broken up with Gina but before 3x16/17 "Setup"/"Countdown".

Let it be stated for the record that I have the propensity to think in weird ways, so this might seem strange to you, or it might not. I still hope, though, that you can see this happening. I can :P

Enjoy!

-Soph


Pedestal

"I'm not in denial."

Lanie raised an eyebrow at her friend before pressing the scalpel back into the cadaver on the table and finishing her Y-incision. "Uh-huh," the medical examiner murmured perfunctorily.

"I'm not," Kate insisted adamantly. "Denial would mean I didn't know what was happening."

"So, you do know what's happenin'?" Lanie asked sceptically. "'Cause I don't, girl. You can't just waltz into Autopsy and start talking like you expect me to read your mind. What's going on?"

"Your ass of a boyfriend is what's going on." Kate let an annoyed huff and hopped onto the adjacent empty autopsy table—ignoring Lanie's protest of, 'Hey! That one's for stiffs!'—kicking her heel into the metallic base of the table with a reverberating clang.

"Do you mind?" Lanie griped. The detective ignored her.

"Seriously, Lanie, you gotta keep Esposito in line."

"What did he do now?" Lanie finally asked.

Kate waved an exasperated hand around. "Castle, that's what."

"He did Castle?"

"Lanie!" Kate coughed out, partly in amusement and partly in irritation. "You know what I mean. He started talking about Castle, and me and Castle, and about how we're meant to be together—"

"He really said that?"

Kate rolled her eyes. "No, he's Esposito. He … implied it. Heavily."

"… By saying you're in denial…?"

"About my feelings for Castle, yeah."

"Which you are."

"I'm not," Kate snapped. "Seriously, do any of you even know what denial means? Did any of you ever pick up a Psych textbook and, like, look up Freud, perhaps?"

"No," Lanie answered without missing a beat. "And if I were to pick up a Psych textbook, I wouldn't be looking up Freud. Oral fixation, my ass."

Kate merely raised an eyebrow at Lanie's disgusted mutterings. "I'm just saying," she continued indifferently, "'denial' isn't the right word for … what I'm feeling."

"Which is?" Lanie prompted.

Kate twisted her lips. Opened her mouth. Shut it again with a sigh. Opened it again. "Something," she finished.

"You're feeling something," Lanie concluded with obviously deliberate slowness. "Wow, that was illuminating."

Kate scowled at her friend's sarcasm. "Very funny. Look, Castle and I, we do know what's going on. At least, I do know what's going on; what I feel for him—"

"Then, why are you with Josh?"

"—Let me finish. I do know what's going on. But I-I can't do anything about it, Lanie. I can't act on these feelings." She uncomfortably tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Castle's my 'hero' of sorts, y'know? Twenty-six bestsellers—or twenty-eight, if you count the Nikki Heat series. Young. Rich. Handsome. Famous. Good son and a better father."

"Everything a woman could ask for, in other words."

"Yeah, exactly!" Kate's shoulders slumped. "Now, look at me and tell me I'm anything a man could ask for."

"I'm pretty sure Josh could attest to that—even if you didn't think Castle could."

Kate shrugged. "Josh likes the one-foot-out-the-door aspect of our relationship, just like I do. It was never about making things last. I don't need to be the woman of his dreams."

"Mmm." Lanie beamed—her interest clearly piqued—at the detective.

"Not that I mean—" Kate hastened to add, but then froze before cutting herself off with another sigh. "Yeah, okay, so I hope, with Castle. But that doesn't mean I can act on whatever I hope. I mean, how long until that fantasy I'd build for him falls?"

"Kate, the man wrote you two love letters in the form of novels, with cover art to boot. I don't think any fantasy you'd build for him—and I'm not saying you'd manage to build any, because that man sees you better than you do yourself—would be falling anytime soon."

"Oh, c'mon, Lanie." Kate clicked her tongue impatiently. "He puts Nikki Heat on a pedestal."

"Yeah, but he knows you're not Nikki Heat," the M.E. countered.

"Even so. Look, as I was saying, Richard Castle is my hero: As in, Richard Castle, the author. While he was off penning twenty-six bestsellers, I was … dealing with my mother's murder, and falling in unrequited love in a one-sided relationship with my training officer because he seemed the only person to give a damn, and investigating my mother's case by flashlight in the middle of the night when everyone else had gone home from the precinct—doing everything in the manner of Crazy, in other words. But Castle's books were sane, and Castle's books made sense, and that was what I needed. And maybe that was a bit of unrequited love in a one-sided relationship too, but that was okay, because that was what fangirls were like, and I could deal with that.

"But the thing is that…" Kate swallowed the lump in her throat. "I put Richard Castle on a pedestal. And I knew he had … issues, at times, especially with women—I knew that even before this—but he was still perfect to me because he was the celebrity I could admire from afar, and celebrities were the ones we could all pretend were perfect and whole."

"And now?" Lanie asked quietly.

Kate gave her a sad smile. "And now you and Espo are telling me to go for it, but it's different—liking someone up close and personal, and admiring someone from afar. I-I can't do up close and personal, because if I do that … then I lose that whole 'celeb' mentality I have going for him which keeps me sane."

"Honey, you're already friends with him. You know what he's like. You know he's not perfect."

"Yeah, but…" Kate leant forwards and rested her elbows on her knees, feeling troubled. "As long as I didn't know him too well, then I could still … put him on that pedestal, y'know? Pretend he was just a weird character I was friends with. And I don't think you really get it, Lanie. Last summer, when he was in the Hamptons with Gina, I couldn't pick up a Castle book without feeling like someone had speared me with a knife. Now, imagine that we got together, and we had a quarrel and broke up—and I felt the same thing every time I picked up his book after that. I still have to live with my mother's death for a long time to come, Lanie. I still have to rely on the sanity that his books provide me for a long time to come. If I lose him as a person, I don't just lose a friend or a relationship. I lose all of what makes sense. I lose every bit of stupid, fangirlish ridiculousness that keeps me normal—"

"Hold it right there," Lanie cut in with presumptuousness that Kate would allow only her to get away with. "Fangirling is not what keeps you normal; you are. Fangirling keeps you happy, and we'd all love for you to be happy, but you know what? Castle makes you happier."

Kate frowned. "Were you not listening to anything I was saying?"

"I was," the M.E. replied, "and I respectfully disagree. That is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard, Kate. Firstly, and I repeat, fangirling is not what keeps you normal. Maybe things seemed a lot more crazy way back, and you needed something to steady you, but you were younger and not yet stable on your feet then, and your father's problems didn't help. You've grown up now. Your father's sober. You have me and Espo and Ryan, and we're never gonna let you fall down the rabbit hole again. That makes a hell lotta difference. Secondly, there are other things to fangirl over. Giving him up in favour of being his fangirl? Can you say 'stupid'? Thirdly, and most importantly, one police case was 'fun' for Castle, but fifty and a near-death experience is a whole other ballpark, and he's been through way too many near-death experiences for someone whose job definition is Fiction. He stays not for the cases, but for you."

"I never asked him to stay."

"I know," Lanie answered calmly. "He knows. But once he realizes you seem to think you need six degrees of separation between both of you to keep you functioning, he's going to walk away. He has a daughter who depends on him. He's not staying because he likes the gamble on his life. He's staying because he cares enough about you to want to keep you safe and whole, and if he thinks that you're going to be better off without him, then he's going to leave you without him. Do you want that? Do you think you could go back to 'admiring him from afar' then?"

Kate blew out a slow, tired breath. "No."

"I didn't think so."

"But it doesn't change the fact that, like you said, it's a gamble on his life to be with me," Kate argued. "I couldn't do that to him, Lanie."

"You're not doing that to him; he's doing that to himself," Lanie pointed out. "Because he cares about you. The only way he walks off is if he thinks you need him to."

"Then why can't we keep things the way they are now? I'm sure he knows that I appreciate his presence."

"How long do you think you're gonna last with one foot in someone's front door and another foot in someone else's backyard, Kate? All that stretchin's gonna get to you, regardless of how much yoga or Pilates you're doing."

"That is a horrible analogy."

"You know what I mean," Lanie countered.

"Yeah, I do," Kate admitted. She rubbed at her eyes with the heels of her hands, feeling the weight of her predicament pressing down upon her back. Dropping her hands, she murmured pleadingly, "So, what do I do?"

"You tell 'im," Lanie responded simply. "You break it up with Josh, and you tell 'im. It might not work out with Castle, Kate, but at least you won't have to keep hoping. I mean, I know you, Beckett. You put yourself in dead-end relationships so that you won't have to be 'the perfect woman', or whatever concept of her you have in your head; secretly, though, you're just hoping someone will find you worthy regardless of your flaws."

Kate smiled wryly. "How do you know Castle will be that person?"

"I don't," Lanie told her bluntly. "But you and I both know he's the one you hope will be."

"And what if it turns out that he isn't?"

"Well, then, you remove your foot from his backyard and go find some other house for you to settle in."

Kate wrinkled her nose. "Seriously, Lanie … the analogy."

"Look." The M.E. put down the scalpel and stepped away from the autopsy table, moving around the light stand and the trolley of equipment to stand in front of Kate instead. "Bottom line is, you love Castle. You want Castle to love you. You don't love Josh. You're not even trying to want Josh to love you. You put yourself in a relationship not because you wanted things to work out, but because you wanted to buy time until you were ready. And now, I'm telling you that that time's gonna backfire on you."

"But I tried to tell him last summer—"

"I know you did," Lanie interrupted, more gently now. "And I'm sorry it worked out the way it did. But Castle's single now, and you don't need to keep things the way they are."

"But I'm not … Gina. I can't be Gina. I don't know how to be Gina."

"Gina was the time he bought," Lanie said firmly.

Kate laughed, softly and sadly. "That's not possible."

"She's his ex-wife; emphasis on 'ex'. She, out of everyone, is the person you should least want to be."

"Then, who should I want to be?"

"You," Lanie responded with a stern glare. "Because you want him to find you worthy regardless of your flaws, remember?"

"Right," Kate breathed painfully. "Right."

The morgue fell silent, save for the humming of freezers, while she battled with the nerves—and the insecurity—that fluttered hard inside the cavity of her chest.

"I hope this works out, Lanie," she choked out eventually. Her best friend gave her a sympathetic smile.

"However it goes, I got a bottle of wine with your name written on it, 'cause that's just how we roll."

Kate shot her a grateful smile. "Thanks."

"Yup."

The detective cleared her throat. "Wish me luck?"

"Luck," Lanie returned gently before tilting her head towards the automatic doors. "Now, get outta here. I gotta call Espo and give him a piece of my mind about interfering."

Kate snorted, half-teasing and half-derisive, before slipping down from the table and giving Lanie a quick hug. "The irony."

"Hey now," Lanie scolded. "Interfering is a girlfriend's prerogative, and don't you forget that!"