A/N: Hi everyone! This is the next installment of my "Life of Sound" series. If you haven't yet read the first story, "The Life of Sound," and the short sequel, "Root Position," I highly recommend reading those before this one. Enjoy!
A Life of Sound story
In order to create there must be a dynamic force, and what force is more potent than love?
"And you haven't spoken to him in two whole days?"
Lanie Parish stared across the café table at her friend, who shook her head, grimacing.
"No," Kate Beckett replied. "He was a complete jerk about the whole thing."
Lanie frowned at Kate, then at the newspaper lying on the table between them. "Honey, you know this is just typical tabloid stuff, right?"
"Well, yeah." Kate's cheeks flushed slightly. "After I calmed down, I realized that. But that's not the point." She glared at the headline: Castle and Beckett, The True Story!
Lanie sighed and ran her eyes over the article again.
"What's the real scoop behind the whirlwind romance of superstar composer Richard Castle and soprano Kate Beckett? By now we all know the story of how K-Becks turned to the violin after her mom's tragic suicide, only to stage a triumphant return to singing after a chance encounter with Castle last year. Can it be a coincidence that shortly after meeting Castle at the New York Symphony's annual Messiah performance, Beckett was in the limelight, filling her mother's ten-years-empty shoes? Sure, she has an extraordinary voice, but what exactly does she see in Castle, or vice versa? Could it be that the role of steady, reliable concertmaster was beginning to bore, and she saw in Castle an opportunity to break into something more glamorous? Insiders say their lovey-dovey act is the real deal, but we're not so sure. It seems awfully convenient that Beckett's career is taking off just as her relationship with Castle is doing the same. We can only hope the ruggedly handsome stud knows what he's doing."
"They're as good as saying that I'm using him to advance my career," Kate said, her eyes flashing. "It's offensive!"
"I know it is, honey," Lanie agreed, deliberately folding the paper over so that the headline and accompanying article weren't visible. "But listen, you know this is mostly just about jealousy, right? I mean, girls have been busting their humps trying to build a singing career out here, and you pop up out of nowhere and suddenly you're the big sensation. That's what this is about." She tapped the paper with a fingertip. "They're just stirring up shit. Sour grapes."
"Mm," Kate grunted reluctantly. She took a sip of her coffee, sighed, took another sip. "You're probably right."
"Of course I'm right. You gotta develop a thicker skin about this stuff, Kate."
"That's exactly what Castle said," she grumbled. "Only he phrased it more obnoxiously."
Lanie tsk'd, stirring more sugar into her own coffee. "The boy does lack in tact sometimes."
"He made it sound like I was being completely unreasonable to be upset by that," Kate went on angrily. "He just doesn't get it. He doesn't need to worry about what people think of him."
"Okay," Lanie said gently, trying to calm her friend down as the waiter appeared with their lunches. "So he's being a jerk, but what are you gonna do about it, girl? You breaking up with him?"
"What? No!" Kate exclaimed, shocked. "Why would you think - No. Of course not. I love him."
"Other guys you've dated, you'd be dumping him at this point," Lanie observed neutrally. "When things start getting too intense, too serious, you bail. That's your pattern, girlfriend."
"I know," Kate said, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. "But that was in the past. With Castle, it's... it's different."
"Well, then you're gonna have to talk to him, aren't you?"
Kate took a bite of her salad and scowled across the table at her friend. "I hate it when you're all logical."
"I know. It's one of my worst flaws," Lanie grinned.
"Okay, thank you, we'll be in touch. Next!"
Rick Castle startled at the director's shout so close to his ear. He straightened in his seat, briefly focusing in on his surroundings, then slumped back again with a sigh. He watched without interest as a young singer gathered up his sheet music and was escorted out by one assistant while another ushered in the next applicant.
On his right, Carol Harcourt, the director, was shuffling through a pile of paper, while on his left sat Geoffrey Rockefeller, one of the producers of all three Derrick Storm shows and soon-to-be executive producer of Heat Wave, currently studying Castle with a slight frown.
"Something wrong, Rick?" Geoffrey asked sotto voce as the next auditioning singer handed his sheet music to the accompanist.
"No," Castle denied. He pressed his lips together and forced himself to pay attention.
"Patrick, right?" Carol called, and the young singer nodded.
"Great. Whenever you're ready."
Patrick nodded nervously, and glanced at the accompanist, who began to play.
As the young man launched into an early Storm aria, Carol leaned sideways, not taking her eyes off the auditioner. "Rick," she muttered, "you're a million miles away."
"No, I'm here. I'm with you. I am," he lied, scowling at her and then over at Geoffrey. "Really."
"Mm." Carol cast her eyes significantly downward, onto the notebook sitting on the table in front of Castle. It was currently open to a blank page, a pencil sitting askance atop the lined paper. By contrast, the notebooks in front of Carol and Geoffrey were brimming with scrawled notes and commentary on the auditions they had heard so far.
Castle sighed again. It was no use. He knew how important the casting process was - he certainly wanted to be sure to get the exact right performers for all of the roles in Heat Wave - but he just couldn't concentrate on the auditions right now. His mind was, as Carol had said, entirely elsewhere. Specifically, on his girlfriend, who was currently not speaking to him.
"Sorry. I need a break," he told Carol quietly, already getting up out of his seat. "Just go on without me. It's fine."
His seat flipped up with a thump as he stood up and walked away, ignoring the whispers and stares, and the way Patrick's tremulous tenor faltered. He felt a little guilty, but it didn't matter - the kid was all wrong for the part of Detective Raley anyway.
Castle slipped out the rear of the theater, avoiding the front entrance where the auditioners would be gathered, each waiting for their shot at glory. Down a short corridor - miraculously deserted at the moment - he made his way to a door that let out onto the alleyway alongside the theater building. He just needed some air.
It was early September, but the weather was still August-like, and the heat hit him like a blast as he emerged from the air-conditioned building. He welcomed it, pushing up the sleeves of his button-down shirt as he pulled his phone from a pocket to check the screen.
Nothing. No calls, texts, or emails from Kate.
For the hundredth time in the past few days he considered calling her, but hesitated. He just didn't know what to do.
Okay, he could admit it: he felt bad about their fight. In retrospect, he had been far too dismissive of Kate's distress over that stupid tabloid article. He was fully accustomed to ignoring that kind of thing, but she wasn't, and he should have been more sensitive.
It was just so hard for him to take seriously the idea that anyone would believe Kate was only dating him out of cold, calculating ambition. If anything, he was the one who was lucky to be with her. Besides, they worked in very different musical genres, so he wasn't really in a position to advance her career, even if he had wanted to - even if she would let him. The mere idea was ridiculous. Kate Beckett didn't need his help; her own musical knowledge and talent would take her wherever she wanted to go.
He wished he had said all of that to her in the midst of their fight, rather than making light of her concerns. He hadn't realized how genuinely upset she was until it was too late.
His first few attempts to apologize, the day after she stormed out of his loft in a huff, had been rebuffed. Now, after waiting another day to let her cool off, he wanted to try again; he just didn't know how. Or whether she would even be receptive to it.
What if she still wouldn't take his calls? What if this really was the end of them? He slumped against the brick wall of the theater, his chest tightening at the awful thought.
No. It couldn't be. He loved Kate too much to let her go over something like this. He would just have to get hold of her somehow and make her hear his apology. Find some way to show her how sincere he was.
But it would have to be later, because he had committed to spending the day hearing these auditions. With a sigh he pushed himself away from the wall, straightening his shoulders as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. Duty called.
"So Castle doesn't even know about your new gig, huh?" Lanie asked as she and Kate exited the restaurant.
"Nope." Kate shook her head. "I didn't get the official word until after we... after our fight." She was trying hard to seem casual, unaffected, but she could tell by the look on her friend's face that she wasn't succeeding.
But all Lanie said was, "Mm-hmm. And what are you gonna do with yourself the rest of the afternoon? Didn't you clear your whole schedule for today so you could sit in on the auditions for his new show?"
"Yeah," Kate sighed, pulling her purse strap over her shoulder. "And tomorrow too. But I have plenty of errands to run, and one of my tutoring students requested a last-minute session for this afternoon."
"Okay." Lanie pursed her lips, studying her friend. "Try to find some time in there to call him, honey. You know you want to."
Kate averted her eyes and didn't reply. Of course she wanted to call Castle; that much was obvious. But that was also part of the problem. In fact, she found it more than a little frightening how much she missed him after only two days of not speaking.
"Think about it," Lanie said, and the women hugged each other briefly and went their separate ways.
As Kate approached the stairs that would take her down into the subway, she pulled out her phone and glanced at the screen. To her surprise, there was a missed call and a voicemail - from Roy Montgomery, her beloved voice teacher. He had called from his studio at Juilliard about an hour ago, just as she and Lanie were beginning their lunch. She changed direction, stepping to the side of the subway entrance as she tapped to bring up the message.
"Kate," Roy's voice came through the speaker, sounding strained. "Kate, we need to talk. I have to - There's something I need to tell you." He paused, and she heard a sound that might have been a sigh or a groan. "Just, just call me, all right?" he concluded, and the message ended.
Kate stared at the phone, frowning. The phrase we need to talk seemed ominous. She bit her lower lip and tapped the call icon.
She listened to several rings, and then a recording of Roy's voice began. "Hello, you've reached Roy Montgomery in the Vocal Arts department. Please leave a message..."
Kate ended the call, deciding to send him a text on his cell phone instead. Sorry I missed your call. What's up? she typed, and hit the send button as she began to descend the stairs.
A short subway ride brought Kate to the side entrance of Symphony Hall, and a strange mixture of pleasure and sorrow flooded her as she walked through the familiar door and down the familiar corridors of the place where she had spent so much time, created so much music. She had performed in this hall countless times, perched on her chair at the front of the stage with her violin under her chin. The music and the memories were so deeply ingrained in her - yes, even the memories of last year's Messiah concert, tainted though it had been by the tragic murder that she and Castle had witnessed here and then helped to solve.
Symphony Hall had been like a second home to her. But now, little by little, she was moving on.
Pushing aside the melancholy, she knocked briefly and opened the door leading to the administrative offices. Lois, the symphony administrator's secretary, greeted her warmly, and after they exchanged pleasantries, Kate was ushered into the inner office to see Howard Grainger, her former boss.
"Lovely to see you as always, Kate," said Howard in his public-relations voice. "Good of you to come by. I appreciate it."
"It's no problem," she replied, cocking her head curiously at him as she sat down in one of his guest chairs. "Is this about the Haydn recordings?"
"Yes. Yes," Howard agreed, nodding, looking relieved. "I wasn't sure if you remembered."
"Of course I remember," she said, surprised. "It's in my contract. I told you I'd honor the remaining engagements in the contract even though I didn't renew it."
"Good, good." Howard nodded again. "So..." He pushed a piece of paper across his desk. "Those are the four symphonies, as you know, all to be released on a single CD. Here's the rehearsal schedule and then the schedule for the recordings. It's all there. I trust there won't be any conflict with your... other commitments." He lifted his eyebrows, clearly hoping she would drop a juicy tidbit of information as to what those other commitments might be. Kate merely smiled at him.
"I'm sure there won't be a problem." She picked up the paper and studied the dates. "This should all be fine. I'll double-check my schedule and let you know if there are any problems, but I don't think there will be."
"Excellent. Excellent." Howard beamed at her. "It'll be lovely to have you playing with us one last time."
Kate couldn't hold back a smirk as she replied, "And I know what you're really looking forward to is creating the marketing materials." Kate Beckett's Final Recording as a Violinist! - she could already picture the advertisements that Howard had in mind.
Her former boss had the grace to dip his head with a rueful smile of acknowledgement. "You know me too well, Kate. We're certainly looking forward to making the most of the publicity."
"Of course." She tucked the piece of paper into her purse and stood up. "Nice to see you again, Howard."
"Yes indeed. Always a pleasure." They shook hands, and she moved to the door.
"All set?" asked Lois as Kate emerged from Howard's office. She nodded confirmation.
"Yep." But Kate paused, leaning her hip against the side of Lois's desk and lowering her voice. "By the way, how are things going with Perlmutter, and Yukiko as the new concertmaster? Is she..." She trailed off, unsure how to finish the sentence.
It wasn't that Kate lacked confidence in her replacement, Yukiko; it was just that Perlmutter, the grouchy longtime conductor of the New York Symphony, could be so hard to manage. It had taken Kate quite a long time to develop a good working relationship with him - one where he trusted her to keep the orchestra running smoothly, and she knew just how to work around all of his many quirks.
Yukiko was an excellent violinist and a very organized person; Kate knew she would be a good concertmaster as well. But Kate couldn't help feeling a little guilty about the way she had thrown the younger woman in at the deep end, so to speak.
"Oh, yes, everything's going just fine," Lois assured her. "Actually..." She glanced over her shoulder, making sure that Howard's door was closed again, and lowered her voice even further. "Actually," she repeated in a near-whisper, "Yukiko has found her own unique way of... handling him. If you know what I mean."
Kate felt her jaw drop. "Seriously?" She gaped at Lois. Surely she must have misunderstood the implication. "You mean they're... You're kidding."
"Nope." Lois popped the P in the word, her expression mirroring Kate's own feelings of mingled astonishment and distaste. "They're keeping it fairly quiet, but people do notice these things."
"Wow." Kate blinked a few times, momentarily speechless. "Uh, well, good for them, I guess. But I really don't want to know."
"That's exactly how I feel," Lois agreed, and they both laughed. "Nice to see you again, Kate."
Stepping out onto the street again a moment later, Kate took her phone out of her purse. There were no new messages. She tried calling Roy again, but as before, it went to voicemail. This time she left him a short message, and then she tucked the phone away and got to the bus stop just as the bus arrived.
"Okay, that's all for today. Thanks, everyone."
The last auditioner for the day was leaving, the accompanist standing up from the piano and stretching her arms over her head. Carol Harcourt closed her notebook and leaned over to speak to Castle and Geoffrey.
"I liked those last two for Ochoa," she said. Both men nodded agreement.
"Yeah," Castle said, looking down at his notebook. He had managed to focus on the afternoon's auditions well enough to fill several pages with notes. "Those two and the one from this morning, for callbacks."
"Tomorrow is the big day," Geoffrey added. "We've got finalists for Cynthia coming in the morning, and then the finalists for Nikki and Rook in the afternoon." He looked at Castle and hesitated, as if he wanted to ask a question, but decided to leave it unsaid.
"Yeah," Castle said again, flipping his notebook shut, not meeting the others' eyes. He knew they were wondering whether Kate would be coming to observe the auditions tomorrow, as they began the crucial task of casting Nikki's mother and the two leads. Before he and Kate had fought, she'd been planning to sit in on the auditions today and tomorrow. Now... he didn't know what was going to happen.
But he didn't need Geoffrey and Carol to know all of that, so he just said, "See you tomorrow," as he rose from his seat and headed outside.
Checking his watch as he signaled for a cab, he frowned; it was later than he had expected. There wouldn't be time to stop at home. Once he was in the taxi, he took out his phone and called his daughter.
"Hey, Dad! How were the auditions?"
"Hi, pumpkin. Auditions went fine. How was back-to-school shopping with Gram?"
"Great," Alexis enthused. "I got everything on my list, plus this really cute pair of shoes. And don't worry, I didn't let Gram get ahold of your credit card," she added with a light giggle. Castle grinned, leaning back in his seat.
"Good girl. So, sleepover at Maya's house tonight, right?"
"Yeah. I'm packing now. Are you coming home?"
"I can't," he sighed guiltily. "I'm running late as it is, and I have to get to the theater for Storm."
"It's okay, Dad," his daughter reassured him. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
"Of course. Have a good time with Maya. Love you."
"Love you too."
The taxi disgorged Castle outside the theater where Storm Surge was playing. At this point in the evening, a couple of hours before showtime, there wasn't a lot of activity on the sidewalk outside - just normal New York City foot traffic - but the interior of the theater was bustling.
Castle felt very much at home in the midst of this controlled chaos; he had, after all, spent much of his childhood in theaters, tagging along behind his mother. Later, as an adult, he had spent even more time in Broadway theaters, laboring to bring his shows (the reviewers, critics, and music journalists insisted on calling them 'musicals,' but he preferred the term 'rock operas') to life. Just stepping through the door of the theater made his shoulders feel looser, his smile less forced.
In the normal course of events, Castle didn't attend his own shows very often, let alone participate in them. But Storm Surge was approaching its 1,000th performance, and although ticket sales remained steady, the publicity team had decided to hype up the milestone. They hoped to capitalize on the renewed interest and press that Castle had been getting recently, spurred by the announcement that his new show, Heat Wave, was beginning the casting process.
So, for the next week, Castle had agreed to conduct all of the performances of Storm Surge. His fans loved seeing him conduct almost as much as they enjoyed his music, and the show's usual conductor had welcomed the opportunity to take a break.
As Castle made his way through the busy backstage area, voices called out his name in greeting. He gave a smile and a nod toward each face.
"Evening, Mr. Castle," said the stage manager. "Dressing room is ready for you. Can I get you anything?"
"I'm fine, thanks," he responded.
"Mr. Castle," the house manager said, appearing at his elbow, "will you be needing any comp tickets tonight?"
"No, thanks, and you can sell out my private box," he replied, still in motion, weaving his way between set pieces, piles of props, techies, and half-costumed extras.
The house manager nodded, making a note on his clipboard. "Drinks at Moloney's after the show if you want to join us," he added over his shoulder as he turned away.
"Castle," another voice called, and he found a familiar face approaching from the wings. It was Greg Garland, a baritone who had played several roles in Castle's musicals over the years and currently sang the role of Jedediah Jones, the principal villain in Storm Surge.
"Greg, good to see you." Castle greeted the other man with a hearty handshake, but something in Greg's expression gave him pause, bringing his feet to a stop. "Is something wrong?"
"I really need to talk to you," Greg said, pitching his voice low, for Castle's ears only. "Is there somewhere private we could-"
"Ah, good, you are here, Castle," said another voice from his other side. It was Tomás Azzurrino, the assistant music director, holding a battered and copiously marked-up copy of the Storm Surge score. "I have some notes to go over with you for tonight, if you have a minute."
"Oh," Castle said, looking uncertainly from Tomás to Greg. "Well, I was just going to-"
"No, it's okay." Greg shook his head, waving a hand. "Forget it. It can wait."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Greg flashed a smile, which looked artificial and unconvincing to Castle, but before he could press the matter, the singer had walked away.
"Now, in scene two, the dance bit," Tomás began, oblivious to the tension. Castle shrugged, shaking it off, and turned his attention back to the music.
Kate took a deep breath of the hot, humid air as she emerged from the upscale apartment building where her tutoring student lived.
It had been a good session, but tiring. After just a few months of focusing on singing, she was already beginning to find it difficult to bring her mind and body back to playing the violin. She shook her head slightly at herself; she would need to make an extra effort to get in at least an hour or two of violin practice time per day before the Haydn recordings. On top of the singing practice she was already doing, the few select singing gigs she had already agreed to, and her tutoring and other activities, that was going to keep her quite busy.
Slinging her purse over one shoulder and her violin case over the other, she began walking toward the subway. By the time she got home, it would be time to find something to eat, and then she could get in some vocal exercises and look over the music for her upcoming voice lesson with Roy.
But aside from that, the whole evening stretched out in front of her mind's eye, quiet and empty.
She sighed, her steps slowing as the reality of how much she missed her boyfriend tugged at her, bringing the corners of her mouth down. Maybe it was time, after she went home and had something to eat, to swallow her pride and call him.
In that moment, her phone buzzed in her purse, startling her. She could almost believe that it was Castle, reading her mind from halfway across town, and her pulse quickened as she dug out the phone. But the number displayed on the screen was an unfamiliar one. She frowned, pursing her lips, trying to push down the irrational surge of disappointment as she swiped to answer the call.
"Kate?" The other woman's voice was familiar, but she couldn't quite place it, until the caller went on, "It's Evelyn Montgomery."
"Oh. Evelyn, hi," Kate said, feeling a sudden cold lump of worry gathering in the pit of her stomach. Why on earth would Roy's wife be calling her? "Is, is something wrong?" she asked hesitantly.
"I'm afraid so," Evelyn replied, and she sounded so weary, so anxious, that it brought Kate to a complete stop on the sidewalk, her hand tightening around the phone. "It's Roy," Evelyn added, "he's... well, we're at the hospital. It looks like he had a stroke."
"No," Kate gasped, shocked. "He- but I just saw him yesterday." Immediately she wanted to kick herself for the inane words, but Evelyn didn't seem to notice.
"I know, honey," Evelyn said, "and I just wanted to... I saw that you had called, so I thought I'd let you know."
"Which hospital?" Kate asked, abruptly jerking back into motion, lifting her free hand to signal for a taxi. "I'll, I'll come right away. I can be there in half an hour."
Thanks for reading! I plan to update 2 or 3 times per week. There will probably be about 15 chapters, but don't quote me on that.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Lord of Kavaka for the cover art; to InkyCoffee for plotting/outlining help; to alwayswritewithcoffee for Broadway show logistics info; to DocNerd89 for medical consultancy; and last but most definitely not least, to The-KLF for fabulous beta assistance.