AN: I'm really sorry about how long this took, I truly am. I know it's long overdue, but in all fairness I was making sure I kept my other story going like it was supposed to, and those of you reading that one know even that has been a tad crazy. I actually wrote three different versions of this chapter, but I finally decided on this one. I'm not entirely convinced it's the best one, but I hope you enjoy this final chapter. Don't be afraid to send me a review or maybe even a suggestion for a new story!
Disclaimer: I own no part of Castle.
Castle's hands were shaking by the time he finished. The rest of the pages had writing on them, but he wasn't sure he could make it through fifty pages of Kate Beckett pouring her heart out onto a page. There was a good chance they were just thoughts throughout her day, and peeking at the next page, it didn't say "Dear Castle" at the beginning. It was probably just a regular diary after that, but at the same time, it was Kate Beckett's diary.
His mind was whirling. Knowing how she felt about him was making his heart pound, but knowing how long she had felt that way was on the verge of giving him a heart attack. He needed to call her, tell her he had her journal, but he wasn't sure he could do it without giving away that he had read it. Maybe it would be better if he told her he had read it. Maybe she would shoot him for invading her privacy.
She couldn't shoot him over the phone, but she'd still have to come over to the loft or he'd have to go to her. If he surprised her by showing up at her door, she wouldn't have time to get her gun ready.
He decided that going to her was his best plan, so he wrote a small note to Alexis and/or his mother if they were home before he got back, then hurried out the door before he could change his mind. His mind was going over the letter as he drove, and before he knew it, he was parking in front of her building.
He took the stairs in an attempt to burn away some of the nervous energy he had gained during his drive. When he reached her door, he took a moment to take a deep breath before knocking.
Castle rapped his knuckles on the door of the apartment, doing his best to keep his hand from shaking. He wiped his hands on his pants as he heard footsteps coming closer to the door. To say he was nervous would be an understatement. He had just read his partner's heart on a page, and he couldn't fight the feeling that she would ignore the meaning behind the words and scold him for ever reading something he knew was going to be personal.
The door opened slowly, creaking ever so slightly on it's hinges. From behind it came a fatigued-looking Beckett—no, a fatigued-looking Kate. Dressed in well-worn baby blue sweatpants and a ratty red t-shirt that was at least four sizes too big, Castle couldn't think of her as Beckett. Beckett was the hard-nosed detective that could win a staring contest with fear itself. This was Kate—the caring, sweet woman underneath the pant-suits.
"Hey, Castle," she greeted with a tired voice. "What're you doing here?"
He couldn't answer her question, too distracted by an inquiry of his own. "Is that my shirt?"
Instantly her eyes widened and she looked down at her shirt, holding it out from her body between her thumb and index finger. "What? Um, I don't really know," she said, her voice uncertain of her own words.
"Now, now, Detective," he feigned scolding. "Don't lie to me. That's the shirt I gave you when you were staying in the loft after your apartment blew up."
"Fine," she huffed. "It's your shirt. Happy?"
He gave her a smirk. "I am, actually."
"If you want, I can give it back to—"
"No, no! Keep it; I've got plenty more at home," he assured.
"Was there an actual reason you came, or did you just come to annoy me?" she asked, putting one hand on her hip.
The reminder snapped him out of his smugness, and he was back to the same nervous state he was in before she opened the door. "Uh, yeah. Can I come in? I mean, I don't have to if you don't want me to, I just… Can I?"
She eyed him thoughtfully for a moment, her gaze suspicious of his sudden change in behavior. "Yeah," she said finally. "You want coffee?" She waved him inside, closing the door once he was standing awkwardly between her kitchen and living room. Rolling her eyes, she motioned to the couch, following behind him.
"No, thanks. I just want to…" he trailed off, not knowing if he should ask to talk to her about what she wrote right away.
"Want to…?" she prompted after a long silence.
"Sorry. I wanted to return this to you," he pulled the notebook from where it had been hidden in the inside of his jacket, handing it to her. "It fell out of your bag at the precinct and you were in the elevator by the time I noticed it under your desk."
Something flashed in her eyes, but she schooled her features too quickly for him to catch what it was. She reached for it with a forced calmness, as if she was afraid too move too fast, for what reason he wasn't sure. He suspected it was in an attempt to seem at ease in the situation, but the way her body immediately tensed the moment she laid eyes on the journal suggested otherwise.
"Uh, thanks, Castle," she said awkwardly. "I hadn't even realized it was missing; I guess I must've been too tired to notice."
"Speaking of you being tired, if you don't mind my asking," Castle started, "what was your appointment about today?" When she shifted in her seat, he gave her a way out. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to. It's none of my business."
She shook her head slightly, and his heart dropped for a moment before she spoke. "No, Castle, it's alright. I had physical therapy today; that's why I'm so exhausted right now."
"If you're too tired, Kate, I can leave." Castle pointed to the door as he spoke, keeping his eyes focused on hers.
After a moment's pause to think it over, she assured him he could stay. "It's really not a big deal. Plus, you're not a bad person to have around."
His answer came in the form of a grin. As much as he was worried about how she'd react to her journal being read, he couldn't hide his glee at the knowledge that she wanted him there.
"Careful there," he said after a long moment of silence, "I might get the impression that you like me. Wouldn't want that going to my head, now would we?"
Again, something flashed in her eyes, but this time, it was something different, though he still wasn't sure what. "C'mon, Castle. I think we both know that I at least like you a little. Otherwise, I wouldn't keep you around."
There was a pause that seemed to hold them there, unable to move or speak. Deciding that it would be best not to tell her point blank he had read her diary, he went for a different approach.
"Can I ask what's in the notebook?"
He knew it was a long shot. The most he hoped for was a reason for it, a snarky comment about invading her privacy at least. The way she visibly tensed at the words only served to worry him more about whether the words in the notebook were true.
They had to be.
She nervously wiped her palm on her pants before speaking. "It, uh… It was sort of a way for me to talk about things without actually talking to anyone."
Castle forced himself to calm down and focus on what she was saying, not the fact that she was finally opening up to him.
"The first few pages are from this summer," she continued, albeit a bit hesitantly. "The ones after that I started writing when…" She trailed off, seemingly at war at herself over whether she should share this with him or not.
"When?" he prompted, knowing he had to snap her out of her trance before it engulfed her.
She picked at a loose thread on her shirt, but continued. "When my therapist, Doctor Burke, suggested that I should write what I can't say."
"What did you write about?" He was pushing his luck and he knew it. Knew by the way the words came out that it sounded less like a question and more like a challenge to see if she would tell the truth. This time, her eyes sparked with suspicion, but this time, it didn't fade. He knew she was catching on to him, could probably read it in his body language, but he stood his ground, and waited for the storm to come.
"Castle," she said in a low, warning tone. "Tell me you didn't."
He tried to feign innocence. "Didn't what?"
"Castle," she growled, standing from her seat.
"Sorry!" He held up his hands in surrender, following her lead and standing. "I swear I never meant to invade your privacy like that!"
"Then why did you read it? What reason could you possibly have?" She was fuming, and he knew that if he wanted to walk out of her apartment without a bullet in him, he needed to tread lightly.
He took a deep breath, and kept his voice calm. "I tried my best to leave it alone. My plan had been to wait long enough to be sure you were done with whatever appointment you had, then bring it over to you."
She opened her mouth to say something, but he held up a hand to stop her.
"I'm sure you know me well enough to know that it's hard for me to leave things alone, so I convinced myself that I would only read a line or two to figure out whether it was personal or work-related." She scoffed, but he continued without pause. "You know what's written on the first line, Kate. You know why I wouldn't be able to ignore that."
Her posture stayed in the same angry stance, but he could see that tears were welling up in her eyes, even as she looked away. He took a chance and walked towards her, only a couple feet away by the time he stopped.
"Kate?" he said softly.
"I'm alright, Castle," she told him, still not facing him. "I just…" She shook her head slightly, then turned her head towards him, but kept her eyes downcast. "I don't know what to do now. You know everything now, right?"
He chuckled. "I don't think I'll ever know everything. I told you that when we were in LA: you are the mystery I'm never going to solve."
"You said that's what you thought when we first met," she pointed out.
"Mere details," he responded, finally making her release a small laugh and look up at him. "I also said you amazed me."
"Do you still feel that way?" Her voice was small, as if she was afraid he might say "no".
"Of course," he assured. "Just look at you. You almost… You were shot and you're standing here in front of me." For some reason, it was easier to say she had been shot rather than that she had almost died.
Kate rubbed at the scar at the mention of that fateful day in the cemetery. "So where do we go from here?" This time, when she met his eyes, she looked hopeful.
"Wherever you want, Kate."
She took a deep breath, closing the small gap between them to fiddle with his collar. "You remember what I said at the swings?"
Rick nodded. "Of course."
"I don't want to wait for those walls to come down. You already made your way inside, anyway." She gave him a small smile, then brought a hand up to his shoulder.
Deciding that at this point he didn't have to be worried about her pulling out her gun, he placed his hands on her hips. "So, we're finally doing this?"
She nodded. "I think it's about time."
There was a long silence as they gazed into each others' eyes, before Rick finally broke it with a whisper.
"I love you so much."
Her grip on his shoulder tightened for the briefest of moments, then she rose up on her toes, bringing her lips mere inches from his.
"I love you, too," she said softly before pressing her mouth to his, ready to finally take that leap.