Disclaimer: I don't own Castle, or I'd be a millionaire by now. (Still not a creative disclaimer, I know. Give me a few fics to get into the zone.)

Spoilers: None...ish?

Setting: Mid-Season 3, after Castle broke up with Gina. This fic is a sequel to my Kate/Lanie friendship-fic Pedestal, but since—much like you if you missed that fic—Castle has no idea what Kate and Lanie talked about, their conversation is referenced by Kate in this fic, so everyone will get along fine without ever being privy to the exact course of that conversation. (That wasn't too confusing, was it?)



"It is Lanie's fault."

Those were the solemn words with which she greeted him when he opened his door, and there he now was standing, blinking at her somewhat stupidly with one hand on his terrycloth bathrobe and the other hand holding the door open. His mind whirred as he sorted through all the possibilities that could make his detective preface her visit with such a sentence.

"What … did Lanie do?" he settled for asking. The woman before him breathed out slowly.

"She interfered."

He continued to gape at Kate.

She began to pace in front of his door. "Her and Espo!" she exclaimed loudly, as if unable to hold back the thoughts that had her clearly tied up in knots. "They were talking about us again—separately, I mean—she and he separately, not you and me separately—we were talked about together—and Lanie—"

"Kate, Kate," he cut in hastily, holding up his hand to stop her flow of words. "You're confusing me."

She huffed with what seemed like exasperation. "I'm trying to tell you what happened."

"Well, we might get further if you stopped mixing up pronouns," he pointed out.


"Actually," he continued placidly, "we might get further if you used fewer pronouns. So, Lanie talked about … whom, exactly?"

"Us." Kate growled, screeching to a halt with her pacing in front of him. "You and me."

"I see." Rick absorbed that. "And what did she say?"

Kate swallowed visibly. "That I—that I…. You know what? I should go."

He wrapped his fingers around her wrist before she was even done turning away. "Beckett," he coaxed, gently tugging her through the doorway, "tell me what's wrong."

"Castle," she sighed.

"Come in?" he invited softly.

She swallowed again. Her eyes flicked around the dim interior of his apartment, and panic flittered momentarily across her face, as if the idea of whatever resided inside his loft scared her.

"No one's here," he was quick to assure her. When she stepped even farther inside, he knew it had been the right thing to say.

"Where's Alexis?" she asked.

He paused. "Okay, well, Alexis actually is here. But Mother's out, and Alexis is studying for a test that she's sure she'll fail, so there's no chance of her showing her face until it's time for bed."

The detective stared at him, wide-eyed. "Uhm … should you maybe be helping her study?"

"Are you kidding?" Rick scoffed as he closed the door behind his partner and led the way down the hall, veering left into the kitchen. "Who wants the class clown to help with studying? Besides, my daughter's brilliant. She thinks she's going to fail five per cent of the time, but out of that percentage, she fails none of the time."

At his back, Kate chuckled. "What about the ninety-five per cent where she doesn't think she's going to fail?"

"She gets an A, of course." He gave the detective a proud beam over his shoulder and pulled a glass from one of the kitchen cabinets. "OJ?" he offered, setting the glass down in front of her.

Kate wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Eh. Got any coffee?"

"Sure," he answered easily, "but the barista's off-duty. You're not gettin' any unless you stay for breakfast tomorrow morning."

There was no way he was offering her caffeinated coffee—the only kind he stocked—at this time of the night with the kind of nerves she was in.

"I'm not staying for breakfast," she answered flatly.

"Wasn't expecting you to, but it didn't hurt to try," he replied smoothly. Propping his elbows onto the kitchen counter, he leant towards the bar stool she had seated herself on and gave her his full attention. "So, what can I do for you?"

Her relaxed posture disappeared so quickly that he thought he might have imagined the last five minutes of their conversation, had proof in the form of an empty glass not sat on the counter in between them—but Kate was strong, and Kate was brave, and she proved it to him when she took a deep breath and released it shakily. "I talked to Lanie today," she started, "about certain … things that I wanted both to stay the same and to change."

He nodded patiently.

"You and me, Castle—" she gestured in between them, "—we're partners."

"I'd say so, yeah."

"I like that." A small smile quirked the edges of her lips. "I like that we're partners."

He chuckled softly, obliging her. "I like it, too."

"Do you ever regret it?"

The abruptness of her question caused him to do a double-take. Had she come here to ask him that? Was there a trick somewhere in her question? "Where's this coming from?" he asked warily.

"I—… Just answer the question, Castle. Please?"

"Then, of course not," he responded immediately. "Of course I don't regret being partners with you, Beckett. You're the best thing since sliced bread."

Startled laughter fell from her lips at that. "C'mon. Comparing me to foodstuff, really?"

He wiggled his eyebrows.

She rolled her eyes.

He mock-deflated. "Well, then, you're just the best partner I have ever had."

She blushed, and whatever he had not known had clenched inside his heart at her question loosened its grip. "I need you to promise me that this doesn't change, no matter what I tell you," she murmured.

He hesitated. Wondered what he was walking into. "I promise," he said, and hoped to God that it was not something that would change them forever.

His partner nodded. Took another deep breath. And then, began her tale. "Once upon a time, there was a little girl. Idealistic, this little girl was. She had big dreams and great ambitions. She thought—she thought she was going to be one of those lawyers who kicked ass in court, and who needed nothing and no one beyond."

"Sounds extraordinary."

She smiled her thanks. "Things changed when she was nineteen. Her mother was murdered."

Oh no. "Kate—"

"And from that moment, the little girl in the story changed."

He tried again. "Kate—"

"—Stop interrupting my story with my name," she snapped, her brow furrowed. "I need to get this out before I lose all my guts. Anyway, the little girl in the story—she was lost for a long time. She didn't wanna be a lawyer anymore. The problem was, though, that she didn't know what she wanted to be. Some days, she didn't even want to be alive."

He swallowed. That was hard to hear.

"But she ploughed through," she continued, "because … that was just who she was. She loved to stand on the edge of the cliff; she just didn't quite dare to jump. She came dangerously close a few times, but in the end, time just helped her move on. By the end of one year, it didn't feel so strong anymore—the urge to not survive. So, Kate began to make plans: To go back to university; to move on, not too much, but just enough so she wouldn't be at a standstill. Problem was, she still didn't know what to be."

She paused in her story just then. He took the opportunity to study her face—the quiver in her bottom lip; the way the lines in her forehead furled and unfurled constantly, her struggle to tell her story written in deeply carved battle lines. "It was the first-year anniversary of her mother's death," she kept on, her voice shaking. "Kate was in her mother's bedroom, sorting through mementos. She came across a Richard Castle book."

He stared.

"She didn't know who Richard Castle was," she explained, "but the copy of the book was dog-eared and well-read. She thought about putting it aside at first—it was just a book, after all; not even her mother's diary—but she couldn't, because she couldn't figure it out. Kate knew about her mother's other belongings, the other things that her mother kept and did and loved; but she couldn't figure this one out. Her mother was a lawyer with a secret Sci-Fi-geek side. A mystery crime novel seemed an anomaly: Kate had no idea her mother even read this kind of books. So, she tried to figure out the book by going through it with a fine-toothed comb, searching for whatever her mother saw in it. Before she knew it, she'd finished the whole thing.

"Mind you," she added, her voice less heavy now, "she got no great epiphanies 'bout why her mother was reading a mystery crime novel. But the clock showed that it was past midnight—way past midnight; it was almost daybreak—and the little-girl-no-longer had missed dinner … and yet, she still felt closer to 'normal' than she had in a long time because the words of a writer had kept her company throughout the worst hours of the night."

"Oh, Kate," he breathed, awed and humbled at the same time.

"That was eleven years ago," she concluded, seemingly impervious to his tone of voice. "His books haven't left her company since. Not on the worst days. Not on her worse days."

Rick felt his heart racing at her revelations.

Why now? he could not help wondering. Why, at past nine on a weeknight, would she show up and start talking about the part of her past she usually kept so heavily locked up?

"Oh, wow," he finally murmured, when he failed to come up with a response that would make sense, and her head lowered as her cheeks reddened.

"I wouldn't say that your words made me choose to become a cop," she said, "but they let something click into place that night—they showed me that there was something I could do to help find justice for victims and closure for families. They gave me a direction to start in and, ultimately, would help me remember during tough days at the Academy and discouraging nights at work one of the reasons why I had chosen what I would end up choosing."

"I had no idea," he told her honestly.

"I never told you."

"So, how come you're telling me now?" It was not a question asked out of tactless curiosity, but rather out of his concern for her, and he hoped she would see it as such.

"Because I needed to tell you where I want things to be going." The words tumbled from her lips in a rush. Her eyes steadfastly avoided his. "And I could not do that without telling you where I had come from."

"So, you told me where you had come from," he surmised.

She nodded.

"And," he pressed on calmly, "where do you want things to be going?"

She sucked in a haggard breath through her mouth. "I—I'm in love with you, Rick."

He froze.

"And I know that it's completely inappropriate," she pushed on, her eyes suddenly glimmering the slightest bit. "I can't just spring this on you and expect you to deal with it. I have no right to want anything from you, and—"

"Kate—" he protested.

"—I don't want anything from you; I just—"


"—had been holding back for so long that I didn't know how to do it anymore—"


"—so I thought I would give it a shot, but—"

"Katherine Beckett," he cut in firmly. She stopped mid-sentence, words dying on her lips and a tear escaping its imprisonment.

"You're crying," he told her carefully, reaching out to brush her cheek with his thumb. Her eyes tracked his progress; the tip of his finger glistened wetly when he withdrew his hand, and distress and humiliation flashed quickly across her face.

"Sorry," she mumbled.

He wanted to kiss away the mortified apology; brush away her tears and hold her until all made sense in her convoluted world again, but one look at her pinched face told him that it would not be the right thing to do. "Why are you crying?" he asked instead.

She licked her lips. "I don't know," she whispered. "I didn't mean to come here and just dump all of this on you. I hadn't meant to tell you at all. I'd thought-I'd thought that if I bought some time, maybe I could just get you to hang in there long enough for me to figure things out; but the more I think about it, the stupider it sounds."

He frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Josh was … a way to distract myself," she told him. "A way to keep myself from thinking too much while I figured out this … complicatedness between us. I broke up with him when I realized that a relationship with him could only make things worse. But the thing was that I was just fooling myself into thinking I could ever make us—you and me—simple, because the way in which I was introduced to you was in itself complicated."

He nodded in understanding.

"Lanie was right when she said I had to tell you the truth before it was too late; before things got too bad." Kate smiled faintly. "But when I showed up here all impulsively, I didn't think about what I had to tell you. I wasn't ready to tell you about my feelings, as it turned out—I mean, I'm still not ready—so I told you about why I wasn't ready instead … and now I can't un-tell you what is one of the biggest secrets of my life."

He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Why does it have to be one of the biggest secrets of your life?"

She did not even miss a beat. "Because it would so go to your head."

His displeasure towards that answer must have shown all over his face, because hers crumpled inwards. "Because it just highlights how different we are," she amended, her voice breaking in places. "You are—you're Richard Castle, and I'm just someone who held it together with the words from a book. I'm not worthy of—"

"Shh." He pressed a finger to her lips, making her choke back the self-deprecating words; her eyes met his, wide and scared and stricken, and he could not help the soft kiss he grazed across her forehead.

"There's nothing not worthy about you, Kate," he murmured seriously.


"No," he insisted adamantly. "You're my hero—don't you know that?"

It was her turn to stare, stunned, at him.

"C'mon, look at yourself through my eyes for a second," he begged. "Youngest female at the 12th to make detective. Barely past thirty and already with the highest closure rate—"

"That's thanks to you—"

"I know I helped," he interrupted, "but that's the thing, Kate. I forced myself into your life, and you didn't even falter. You took it all in stride and trained me and guided me instead; you made me a better man. I don't have a single memory at a specific point in time that says, 'This is what Kate helped me with,' but the proof is all there, in those two books I wrote for you."

"I am not Nikki Heat—"

"I know you aren't," he replied fervently. "I didn't write those books for Nikki Heat. I wrote them for you."

Her eyes flicked away uncertainly.

"You don't get it, do you?" he asked quietly. "I didn't have to base two books on you. I could have made you an auxiliary character. I could even have made you a passing one. When I called the mayor, I had no intention of shadowing you beyond a few months, but somewhere along the way, I realize you couldn't be contained into 10 pages. So, I turned you into a book, and when that wasn't enough I gave you a series. And that's just for the 'Detective Kate Beckett' side of you."

He stepped around the counter, just enough so he could weave his hand through her hair to cup the back of her head and draw her closer to him. His fingers stroked against her scalp; her eyes fluttered shut under the ministrations.

"I have no words for the woman you are," he confessed quietly, and she swallowed. "Because you have managed to weave yourself so thoroughly into the fabric of my being that sometimes I really have no idea where you end and where I begin. You give me advice on my daughter. You teach me to tolerate my mother. You teach me patience and humility and give me aspirations that go beyond providing for my family. Not that that isn't a good aspiration—it's just that I never thought about making a difference in someone else's world until I met you. You think my characters inspired you to find justice, but the truth is, I didn't know what real justice for real people was until you showed me."

Her eyes were large, her breathing coming in quick puffs against his palm now, as if she could not quite believe his words.

"If my fiction tempers your fact, Kate," he finished grandly, "then your fact grounds my fiction."

And there it was, finally: The light that sparked in her eyes the half-second before the slight crooking of her lips.

"That's a cheesy line, Castle," she teased gently, and he finally permitted himself to lean into her. Her arms came up to lace around his upper back, and her face burrowed against his chest, trusting and intimate.

"I know," he conceded, "but we all know poetry is a reflection of prose."

She chuckled shakily.

"I'm in love with you, too, you know," he whispered into her hair.

The quick intake of air before she tightened her arms around his torso let him know that she did. They were still for a long moment—her breath against his body and his into the peaceful, contented silence around them—before she mumbled, "So, where do we go? From here?"

"Wherever you want to go," he promised her. "If you're still not ready to, ah, realize your emotions, I can wait. But I want you to know that I don't need you to be uncomplicated. I'm complicated, too."

She hesitated. "I still don't feel whole sometimes." He rubbed her back, and she raised her head to look at him. "But I'm willing to accept that … eventually, I will have found enough of my footing to give us a chance."

And his heart skipped a few beats. He nodded. "I will be waiting for you—s'long as you're sure you want to give us a chance."

"I am." Two words, simultaneously earnest and confident. They filled his heart and made him beam.

"Me too."

Her face lit up so completely that he could not resist lowering his head to capture the shy curve of her lips—his heart thumped away rapidly in his chest when she pressed all of herself into him, already giving him whatever she could.

Yeah, he decided when she framed his face with her slender fingers and covered his mouth eagerly with hers, she would be worth the wait.

A/N: I stopped asking for reviews in the NCIS fandom a while back, but since I'm new to this fandom and haven't really established myself—am not really sure whether I will be able to establish myself—I won't be too proud to ask for reviews. Please?