Disclaimer: Espo in elbow patches.

Spoilers: 4x01 "Rise"; 4x20 "The Limey".

Setting: Takes place after "The Limey". Castle shows up with Jacinda at a crime scene for the second time; Kate, full of jealousy and disapproval, kicks him out of the precinct.

Enjoy!

-Soph


Confessions

"Leave."

"What?" The writer sounded shocked.

Kate flipped a page of her paperwork nonchalantly, poising her pen atop the line requiring her name and signature. "If you would rather spend time with Jacinda the Stewardess, then leave."

"I beg your pardon?" He sounded indignant now, as if the idea of her asking him to stop working cases was so very wrong.

"I can't have you showing up at crimes scenes in a Ferrari, Castle. With a big-breasted blonde. I'm not saying the image isn't just fascinating, but here's the thing—you're giving the Precinct a bad name. We can't have tabloid reporters hanging around."

"There were no tabloid reporters around this morning!"

"There will be, soon enough."

He scoffed loudly enough for her to hear even without looking up at him. "If they weren't fascinated by a writer tailing his muse around, they're surely not going to care about a blonde in a Ferrari."

"Well, I'm not tabloid-worthy." She slammed the case file shut before standing and turning towards the break room. "Leave, Castle," she threw over her shoulder, "don't make me tell you again."

When she got back from making her coffee, he was gone.

Good.

That way, he would not know that even Ryan and Esposito were able to see how utterly heartbroken she was.

xoxo

Their distance lasted all of two-and-a-half days.

A Castle-less case later, she looked up from her desk early one afternoon to spot, to her chagrin, the very man in question walking towards Gates' office.

In her haste to get to him before he got to Gates, she almost tripped over her own feet. The clatter she made as she banged hard into another desk caused him to look in the direction of the commotion; Kate ignored the pain thudding down her hip and skidded to a halt in front of him instead.

"What the hell, Castle?" she barked in a whisper. "I thought I told you to leave."

He stared coldly at her. "I'm here to see Gates, not you."

Her heart twisted sharply. "Don't tell me you're gonna charm your way into following me once more."

"Actually, no," he answered casually, "I'm here to see if I can follow another detective."

"Another—" she spluttered. "Another detective?"

"Yeah, like from Narcotics or something."

"What…" She swallowed, frowning. "Why?"

"Because, Kate," he said slowly and with over-exaggerated patience, as if she were a particularly dense child, "you're not my keeper, and my contract with the Precinct is still valid. I can still follow other teams if I want to. I just have to amend the contract so that it says I'm doing consultancy for '"so-and-so" team from Narcotics' rather than '"so-and-so" team from Homicide'."

Kate gaped, speechless, at him.

"Now, if you'll excuse me," he told her.

"Wait." She grabbed hard at his arm, possibly a bit desperately, and flinched reflexively when he wrenched it out of her grip.

"What?" he asked flatly, even though his tone was slightly more apologetic than it had been two seconds ago.

"I…" Kate started. Paused. Stared down at her empty hands, willing her words to come. "I, um—could you come to the break room with me for a second? Please?"

He hesitated, and she hated it—hated how he had to think before doing anything for her now; hated how uncertain she was that he would agree to her request when, not two weeks prior, she would have taken it for granted—but then he nodded. "Okay."

She waited until she had turned her back to him and was leading the way before heaving a sigh of relief.

She closed the door upon their entering the break room. Through the slits in the opened blinds, she could see how the bullpen continued to bustle with activity, none of the detectives paying them the slightest bit of attention. (Ryan and Esposito were, thankfully, out chasing down a lead from their new case.) It was almost as if no one from without had noticed her world falling apart.

Cringing inwardly at the dramatic thought, she whirled away from the window. Castle was standing—tensed and awkward—by the espresso machine. For a moment, she considered inviting him to sit down, but then decided against it. Better that they do this standing up: Stiff and unapproachable, like their defences.

She cleared her throat. "Please, don't."

"Don't, what?" he asked innocently. Too innocently.

She shook her head. "Castle—the precinct is my home. It's … the solace I sought from my mother's death. It's-…. My mother is gone. My relationship with my father is tenuous at best. I—I lost two friends because they were your family members and their allegiance was to you first. I lost—I lost you. And despite everything that I've lost here, too, this is still the place where I can come in every single day and still have a team and a job. It's my Bread and Butter. It's my Everyday. It's—it's something that's consistent, and I need that. I need that, Castle.

"I don't know what I did to make you hate me so much," she continued shakily, blinking furiously to keep the wetness filling her eyes from slipping down her cheeks. "I know it was wrong to kick you out of the precinct when you hadn't done anything to deserve that kind of treatment—but, please, I'm begging you now: Don't make it hard for me to come here every day. Don't make me watch—"

"Watch what, Kate?" he asked when she did not finish the sentence she had cut herself off from saying.

She took a wet, shuddering breath. "Don't make me watch you follow someone else. Don't make me watch you care for someone else; spend three years making someone else's coffee. Don't make me watch you move on from me, because I'm weak and I'm selfish, Castle, and I—I want you for myself; and even if you don't want me anymore, just—go to another precinct or another institution or another state altogether. Find another muse. Switch book series. Change careers. I don't care. Just, please don't make me watch you be with another woman, because I thought—I thought we had a chance, and I haven't gotten used to l-losing you yet."

He was the one who looked stunned now, his eyes wide as he absorbed her words.

She took a deep breath and walked further away from him, mortified by the break in her voice. Numb legs carried her over to the couch; she sank down into it and buried her face in her hands, choking back the despairing sob that threatened at the edge of her lips. Castle was still silent, and so she waited for him to leave the room: Waited for him to either defy or respect her wishes—walk into Gates' office or out of the 12th Precinct forever. Waited. For him to leave her life, either way.

She startled when the couch cushions dipped beside her. (Of course, he would do what she least expected.) Dropping her hands into her lap, she sighed.

Apparently, he took that as permission to speak and said, "I'm not doing this to torture you."

She laughed bitterly; sceptically.

"I'm not," he reiterated. "Just, I learnt a lot of things while working with you, Kate. One of those things was that people deserved justice—closure—and it didn't always come nicely tied up with a bow like in my stories. I'm here because I found a way to help, and I want to keep doing that."

"I know," she said softly.

"Then you should know I'm not really here to torture you," he answered simply. "I was furious when you kicked me out. I was already mad at you, but I stayed because I wanted to help out, and when you wouldn't give me even that … I wanted to seek revenge, a little. By following another team."

She sniffled involuntarily. "Castle … what did I do to make you so angry?"

"You lied," he replied quietly. His tone was darker now. "You heard me. When—when you got shot. You heard me."

Her heart clenched painfully at his words, memories from the past year flashing through her mind in a single moment. The shooting. His confession. Her running away from reality. His telling her he would wait. His actually waiting. Her non-confessing.

"Oh," she murmured brokenly.

He exhaled. "Yeah."

"O-oh," she murmured again. "I'm sorry."

"Are you really?"

"Yes." She wiped her eyes. "I never meant to hurt you."

"So, why did you?"

She took in another breath. "Have you ever been shot in the chest, Castle?"

"… No?" He wanted to say more, she could tell, but she held up a hand to stop him. Beside her, he bristled.

"The predominant feeling when you're confronted with pain," she continued regardless, "is not happiness or sadness or even fear. It's anger. It's like that headache that won't go away, and makes you irritated and willing to lash out at everyone to shut up and leave you alone already. It's like waking up every morning to backache and already dark prospects to the day. I was angry, Castle, because I had a bullet hole in my chest and a surgical scar up my side, and the pain meds weren't working well enough, and Josh was there when he never was, and I had flowers on my table from people I had never even spoken to before, and you totally had to ruin our first time."

He stared.

"I was dying when you said it, Castle. I was dying and I clung to it when I was dying, but when I woke up I realized that I never would have gotten the chance to say it back if I had died. And that's not poetic—not when it's real life—that's just mean, because you had deprived me of the opportunity even though I knew you hadn't meant was all wrong—everything was wrong—and I didn't want to be angry, but I was. So, I broke it off with Josh and ran, because then I wouldn't be able to lash out at you or anyone else. I trashed my father's cabin twice that summer. I cleaned it up twice—while snapping at my dad that I didn't need his goddamned help. I nearly tore out my stitches one time. It took me three months just to learn to stop being angry, and by the time I came back, I realized that it was too late. So, I didn't tell you."

"But you thought you could make me wait, anyway."

She rubbed her nose. "Not forcibly. I—I hoped you would, but I would never be so presumptuous as to assume you still felt that way. I told you what I wanted and left it at that—hoped you could read between the lines. And if you didn't still feel that way…"

His breath caught, and she knew he had heard the unspoken ending to that sentence. Then you wouldn't have waited for me, and I would have known where you stood without having to lay my heart on the line.

"What about after?" he asked. "When you were sure my feelings were just as strong as they had been before?"

"By then, it was just too messed up," she answered shamefully. "I kept a holding pattern in the hopes that it would all work out eventually. Only, it didn't."

He huffed, partly in laughter and partly in sadness. "You could say that again."

"I'm really sorry, Rick."

He grunted. "I just need to know one thing."

"Anything," she promised earnestly.

"Do you … love me?"

"Yes," she answered immediately, unconditionally—but the words she could not say poisoned the tip of her tongue. But it's too late. But you don't love me anymore. But you've moved on. But I'm not enough and will never be enough. But I've messed up too badly. But—

"Okay," he said. She looked at him in confusion.

"'Okay'?"

"Okay," he repeated. "Then, I forgive you."

She breathed out in relief. Humming gratefully at him, she asked, "Does that mean you will go somewhere else for your new muse?"

"No," he answered bluntly. Her heart dropped.

"But—"

"Not unless you want me to get a new muse, Kate," he interrupted.

"I don't," she replied, "of course I don't. But I also don't want you to stay by my side unless you truly want to be here, Rick."

He laughed softly and canted forwards, fingers brushing her cheek as he tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear. "I never stopped loving you, you know," he whispered, and her eyes slid shut at his gentle words. "I never stopped wanting you. Not even when I was mad."

"I love you," she choked out in a whimper, leaning into him. She tucked her head under his chin; her hands came up, almost against her will, to curl tightly around the fabric of his coat. "I love you. I want you. I love you."

"Me too, Kate. Me too," he answered quietly as he tugged her closer—

—And at the end of the day, that was all that mattered.