Guilt isn’t a four letter word. But it should be. How many times have we yearned to be better only to be held back by a suffocating guilt we cannot escape? If we could just learn to overcome guilt, if we could just understand that being a good person means more than taking blame for past mistakes, then it might be possible for human potential to reach the dizzying heights it can. Ultimately though, their story isn’t about mistakes or guilt. That’s too easy for them. No, their story is about how good people rise up and overcome that which threatens to break them down.
To say she had a tough week would be like saying that politicians lied sometimes. As she collapsed into bed that night, she wanted nothing more than to sleep and try to find peace in a life of chaos. Hours of tossing and turning had yielded nothing more than quixotic attempts at sleep, but finally, in the darkest hour of the night, she found solace behind her own eye-lids.
When she woke, she found herself in a strange room bathed in white. A single table with two chairs sat in the middle of the almost clinical room with no door. Was this a dream? What was going on? At first, she thought to panic but the white room and white table had an almost calming influence, and it helped her to regain control as she searched for answers. She wasn’t cuffed to Castle and there didn’t seem to be a tiger, so that was something. She guessed. And then she heard her voice…
She would know that voice anywhere. She slowly turned to witness the voice and allowed the shock and joy to play across her features. She could say nothing but, “Mommy?”
The figure she saw gracefully strode forward dressed in the white of the room and wearing Johanna’s face, though she was certain of its impossibility. Johanna sensed her daughter’s hesitation and spoke, “Aren’t you a little old to be calling me mommy?”
Johanna smiled and calmly sat in one of the chairs, beckoning her daughter to sit across from her. Kate stood rooted to her spot, unable to move. That smile…
“Honey, why don’t you join me?”
Kate could hardly reign in the wild emotions which tore through her veins, her heart beat rapidly in order to keep up, and she felt herself being carried to the chair. She couldn’t resist even if she wanted too, “Are you real?”
The tears could not be held back any longer but Kate fought the urge to lunge towards her mother and never let her go. This wasn’t nor could it be real. Only Castle would believe in this, even with the evidence in this room. But she wanted so badly to believe. To believe in something. Magic. Whatever this room meant, she made a split decision to embrace the magic because this was her mom sitting across from her.
“Well, that depends on your definition of real actually. Are our dreams real? Are you even dreaming?”
Kate laughed, “Mom, what’s with the philosophy?”
Johanna laughed in turn, “Let’s just say, I’ve had some time to think. By the way, I told you so.”
Kate’s joy could not be contained, her tears were products of this gift she was being allowed, and at this point, she couldn’t care less whether this was real. Her mother was sitting across from her, a loved one cruelly stolen from her had returned, and she felt it lift her to a place she had not been in 13 years. “You told me so?”
“Of course. I told you there was nothing in this world you couldn’t overcome. You aren’t there yet but you will be. One day soon. When that day comes I won’t suddenly be proud of you because I’ve always been, but I will look down upon you and revel in your own happiness. It’s a parent’s prerogative. Now, would you like to sit?”
“I’d like to hold you and never let you go, actually. Do you think we can do that?”
Johanna smiled a solemn smile that silently told her no and held out her hand to the chair across from her. Almost reluctantly, Kate strode forward and sat across from her mother, the smile beaming from her lips and the tears stroking her face.
“I don’t think forever is possible honey. At least not yet.”
Kate reached for her mother’s hand and reverently wrapped her fingers around a hand she never again thought she would. Both smiled. For a moment, nothing existed anywhere but Kate and Johanna Beckett. Kate could have stayed that way for the rest of her life.
Kate spoke in just a whisper, afraid she might lose this if she spoke too loudly, “I miss you so much mom. It hurts everyday.”
“I know Katie, I know.” Johanna squeezed Kate’s hand in reassurance, “I wish I could take your pain and make it mine, but that’s not how this works.”
“Mom, what is this?”
“I’ll let you figure that out. You were always smarter than me.”
Kate couldn’t hold back her laughter, “Well, duh! But you could read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and I could hardly get through any of them. War and Peace has to be the densest book I have ever read.”
Johanna returned her laughter, “I still don’t know what you were thinking with Russian literature. I always thought your major was because of a boy and not because you liked reading that stuff.”
“Well, it kind of was…”
“I knew it!”
“Yes, yes I know. I wasn’t the best person at 19.”
“Oh but you were so cute back then!”
“Uh huh, I bet the black jacket and the chain wallet really painted a picture.”
“Hey, at least you took a shower every day, that boy you dated could have taken the hint. You know, after you guys went back, your dad spent three days trying to get the smell out of the apartment. I literally think he cursed with every spray of the Febreeze!”
“If I recall, he nearly got his shotgun when we first walked through the door.”
“That entire meeting was one giant cliché. I had to hold him back from driving your motorcycle off a cliff too.”
“Do you remember the chair?”
Johanna laughed in remembrance, “Oh God, how could I forget?”
They were both laughing and giggling then, “I remember just sitting there with you guys, and when I heard that thud and grunt, I thought something bad had happened. I will never forget his face when we raced over to where to he had fallen backwards and couldn’t get out of that chair.”
“It took everything we had to fight through the laughter to pull him up!”
“He was so angry and embarrassed but that was way too funny.”
“Oh Katie, the look on his face was just priceless.”
“Don’t worry mom, I never let him forget it.”
“I always poked fun at him for that or the myriad of other things he did to make us laugh.”
As they came away from the moment, Kate realized she could do this forever, “Can we do this forever mom?”
With resignation tingeing her voice Johanna replied, “Honey, there are rules we have to follow. Time is not infinite here.”
Like a small child about to throw a temper-tantrum, Kate began to cry in earnest, “You are going to leave me again?”
“I have to, I wish so badly that I didn’t, but I have to. The rules…”
Kate cut her off rather loudly as she fought through her emotions, “I don’t give a shit about the rules Mom, please don’t leave me again!”
“Katie, I never really left you. I reside in your heart and in your job. I can’t stay with you but I can help you.”
She could barely choke out the words now, “How?”
Johanna smiled and wiped a few tears from her daughter’s cheek, “By telling you that he was right. You cannot let me down, Katie. It’s impossible. I am your mother and I love you unconditionally. Do you remember what I used to tell you every time we fought or argued?”
Of course she remembered, “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”*
“You are a part of me.” Johanna took Kate’s hand and placed it on her heart. “And I am apart of you.” She moved their joined hands to Kate’s chest and rested it there.
Kate understood immediately, “It’s why I can’t give it away Mom.”
Johanna smiled, “Yes you can, sweetheart. That’s how I am going to help you tonight. I once gave my heart away and now it is your turn. Take his proffered heart and allow him the gift of yours. You must find the courage to allow yourself the luxury of love. When you do find that special form of bravery, you will come to understand that I still love you, I am still proud of you, and I am still with you.”
Kate began to sob. Johanna was there in an instant to hold her child once more, and as she did, she found that she could no longer hold her emotions in check. They spilled forth, mother and daughter reunited in heart and in heartbreak, and as they sat and cried together, neither wanted this to end.
Kate forced the words from her lips, “I don’t know if I can do this, Mom. I don’t even know if I want too.”
“Katie, I know you can. This is a lesson about life, a lesson about what it means to truly live, a trial by fire that will scorch and destroy if you allow it. This is your path laid before you like a highway to heaven. Some will tell you there are only two options: be ready or not, be complete or fractured, but that’s not nor will it ever be the case. Part of healing, part of the journey that is never studied is the moment the hero realizes that they don’t have to travel this path alone. For what you must realize is that love and hope are not your destination, they are the journey. They are the sand and dirt and mud that stay your feet when you land. That is my hope for you.”
Johanna ached for her child and wanted nothing more than to take away her pain and fear, and so she wrapped her arms around her daughter even tighter and kept speaking, hoping that her words would act as a shield against the sometimes cruelty of the world.
Johanna continued, “Honey, I’ve seen how much the world has thrown at you, I’ve seen the effect of your trials, and I know that the world seems like a harsh playground born of pain and agony, but I also know that even the heroes who are left to pick up the shattered remnants of their own sacrifice do so because they want the life they sought to provide others. I am so sorry that I am the cause, I am so sorry that my death brought you so much pain, but more than anything, I am sorry that you are the one who must stand now. You must find it within yourself to forgive, to love, and to save those who need it most. You must rise to the occasion.”
Kate reveled in her mother’s touch and allowed her words to envelop her. This was a place where she could be open and honest without the fear that always followed. It felt liberating, “I don’t want to bear the weight of the world any more. I’ve done it for so long that my chest is weak and my legs hurt. Sometimes, I don’t even know where I am going.”
“Katie, anyone who says they don’t fear death is lying. But the thing about death is that it teaches an important lesson about life. Death is meant to show us why the journey matters so much more than the destination. Love and hope are not panacea’s that cure us of the weights we bear, they aren’t some ultimate goal or trophy we can win, and they certainly aren’t impregnable castles in the distance that taunt us and remain elusive. They are the swords we wear to battle, the shields we wield against the darkness, and when that army seeks you out, when the ground shakes and the terror approaches, you need to know that you will never be alone. The people you love will always be there with you, and they will bear some of that weight if only you can find the courage to let them in and be honest with them. If you share your pain with them, they will not judge you, they will be the amazing friends and family you have always known them to be.”
“It’s just so hard. I try every day and all I seem to do is fail. My best never seems good enough for anything.”
“Don’t ever think that your best isn’t good enough. Instead of all the things you think you can’t do, focus on the things you can do. You are the best detective in the NYPD, you do bring closure to those who need it most, but more than that, you bring justice to a world of injustice. More importantly, you demand better from those around you. You saved your dad from the bottle and I could not be more grateful. Your forgiveness forces those you love to seek redemption and provides others the purpose they seek. You give so much. It’s time that you allowed those who love you to return the favor.”
Whatever the nature of this place, its white walls echoed the potency of her mother’s words. There was no grand revelation or epiphany, there was no moment where everything seemed to fall into place, for the puzzle had always been complete. Her mother had not helped her to see, she had helped her to accept.
Kate smiled through the rapidly drying tears, “I don’t want my scars to define me anymore. I want to be something greater.”
“And now…now you know how.”
“Thank you mom.”
Johanna gently ran her hand down her daughter’s cheek, “Always, my sweet baby girl.”
Silence enveloped the room because they both knew their time was up. “You have to go now, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do. It’s time for you to wake up. But when you do, breathe in life, gulp it down, and realize the great potential that awaits you.”
“I don’t want you to go…”
“I love you so much Katie. I will always be with you”, whispered Johanna as she leant down to kiss her daughter one last time.
As soon as her mother’s lips grazed her cheek, Kate startled awake. Instantly, she sat up in bed and was overcome with the grief of losing her mother once again. She wasn’t sure whether it was a dream or something less sinister, but what she was sure of was that her dream threatened to make her life the nightmare. And to Katherine Beckett, that was unacceptable.
April 29th, 2012-New York City
Richard Castle’s Loft
When he heard the knock at the door, he was surprised to say the least. Since his argument with Kate, Castle had thrown himself into solving her mother’s murder. He knew that if he solved it, if he could just find that one loose thread, then he could make amends and be the man she needed him to be. He had only sent his mother and daughter away once before, when a dirty bomb threatened New York City, but he couldn’t take the looks and the pleas anymore. They couldn’t and didn’t understand. He needed a break from them and they needed a break from him. When he solved this he would make it right with them, but until then, he needed to focus.
He went to the door and without bothering to see who knocked, his building had wonderful security after all, he opened the door and was stunned at the person who stood in front of him. Without so much as a word, she surged toward him with a fury he had not yet seen directed at him, she grabbed him by his shirt, threw her leg behind him and swiftly had him on his back. He hit the ground with a thud hard, it knocked the wind out of him, and she perched herself on top of him with one knee in his chest and the other resting beside him. Her hands tightened around his shirt and her eyes scorched him with anger and betrayal.
As he struggled to regain his composure and his breath, she growled, “How could you Castle?”
He sputtered, “How could…how could I what?”
“I know everything. I know about the deal. How could you do this!”
She knew. How? How did she know? He had been so careful! Did he leave a trail she had followed?
“How…what…how do…how did you know?” He struggled to regain some measure of control both over himself and the situation. He was lost and she provided no comfort or purchase.
“It doesn’t matter, I do!” Tears threatened to stream down her face, “After everything. After the hangar. After Roy. How could you?”
Finally, his breath seemed to return to him as did rational thought. There was no point in denying it, “How could I not? You would be dead if I hadn’t!”
“You don’t know that Castle, we might have been able to end it once and for all! Did you ever think that we might have been able to finally put this behind us?”
Wait. Us? Oh God, this wasn’t about the betrayal or the case. He kept them apart, “Are you angrier that I held this from you or that it kept us apart?”
She paused in her assault, he knew he had deftly countered her attack, and now it was time to go on the offensive. After Gates had forced him to take self-defense classes, no doubt in a desire to see him leave the precinct, he had relished the task. He couldn’t beat her or Esposito or Ryan yet, but he did well and took to moves with a grace he didn’t know he possessed. With a quick distraction, Castle grabbed Beckett’s hands and lifted his torso. He lifted her off him in a quick throw and was able to turn them so that she landed softly on her back, he then used her momentum to propel himself on top of her and smiled at her surprised look.
Then she kneed him in the groin and his smile faded away.
5 minutes and an ice pack later…
It had been a while, hell it had been 30 years since he had been hit in the groin, and as any man can tell you, it is a pain no one wishes on even their worst enemies.
“You know, you didn’t have to knee me in the groin, there are at least three counters I can think of that would have put you back on top.”
“Yeah but none of them were as fun.”
“You think I deserved it?”
“You know, you never answered my question. By the way, even under these circumstances…it’s really good to see you.”
She sighed. That smile could always calm her down or bring her back, and she had to admit, it was good to see him too. Even two days was too long not to see Rick. They weren’t finished though…
“You never answered mine either. How could you?”
He couldn’t hold back any longer, since that horrible day in May he had wanted to scream it from the highest building he could find, but he had held off because she needed space. No longer though. Subtext had died the moment she slammed him to the ground.
“I did it because I love you. Because I selfishly couldn’t allow you to destroy yourself. Again.”
She sighed and found a spot on the floor that seemed worthwhile. Then she looked him in the eyes with that steely determination he knew so well, “I know.”
She knew? Wait, how did she…
He nearly choked on his next words, “How long, Kate?”
He could see the battle she waged inside, “I’ve always known. But I’ve known about the cemetery since the moment I woke up. Since the moment the pain became something I could bear.”
His anger became too much to hold within, “So what? You just thought you would string me along for months? The three months of pain you caused weren’t enough? Let me guess, it your own special brand of punishment right? I couldn’t get to you and take that bullet, so you would wound me yourself!”
She expected the anger, “No that wasn’t it. You held a secret from me too remember?”
“I did that for you! To keep you safe!”
“Your reasons are mine, Castle. Every relationship I have ever been in failed because I could never give them my heart. The last thing I wanted was for you to join that list of failure.”
Of course, that was not what he was expecting. How could he trust her though? How could he see past the lie? “How am I supposed to trust you?”
She knew that if they were to survive this, if they were to be one once more, she would have to be honest with him. She would have to open up, “Because I almost said it first.”
“You…you almost said it first?”
“Two years ago, I broke up with Demming so that I could say it to you. I stood outside that conference room…”
“You wanted to say it to me but…”
The realization hit him like a slap in the face. The years they had lost because he had been an idiot. They stood silently in his loft, both lost in the moment, and as they stared at each other, Kate began to wonder whether they could make out. Together. Maybe it was time to find out…
Without warning or preamble, the moments lost became the moments shared.
She didn’t so much kiss him as attack him. They tumbled back into his office, both shocked at this turn, and as they collided with the wall, they devoured each other in a passionate embrace born of heat and desire and hurt. Kate understood the depths and the mechanics of this obsession and also knew the power of its hold over its victims, and though she had vowed to save him and bring him back, she never imagined this would be the tool she used to lift him from the abyss.
In that moment, her thoughts began to betray her. She wondered whether they should build a relationship on this foundation, whether this would just be a moment in time or whether it could lead to the kind of relationship she had decided she wanted, needed from him. They had held each other at arms length because of a need to protect the other, they held damaging and painful secrets in the hopes that the other would be whole, and Castle had fallen prey to an obsession that threatened his very existence. Were they each other’s cure? Was this how each of them came back to the other?
As if sensing her reluctance, Castle showed her the way by whispering in her ear. “Let me in, Kate. Let me be the one to show you the life you deserve, let me be the one who takes that final step with you. Let me in Kate…”
This was not the turn of events Rick had envisioned when he agreed to keep her safe, but Rick also understood that this was an opportunity he could not allow to pass. This was an opportunity to reach for an ultimate happiness he had hardly experienced, for this was the woman he loved. The woman he grew to love and understand and cherish. They had earned this moment and he was determined to make it theirs.
As he began to undo the buttons on her blouse, a momentary flash of panic sought to overwhelm her but she stayed those emotions with practiced precision, and with a fierce determination, she allowed him to kiss his way down her exposed abdomen. When he stopped at her scar, he looked at her with eyes that spoke of the tragedy born of that horrible day in May, but she noticed too the love and admiration that warred with the pain. There was a reverence there that nearly left her breathless. As his lips and tongue danced along the length of the scar that adorned her side, she closed her eyes and fought the insecurity, fought the doubt, and allowed herself to believe in the man beneath her. Her scars no longer defined her but they did reveal a roadmap that spoke of where she had been and where she was going. Let him in Kate, let him in…
His office was dark from the curtains that blocked the sun from shining through and his desk was strewn with the remnants of his fall, and as he made his way down her body, she wanted to illuminate the room in light, to see him and allow him to see her. Let him in Kate…
With that in mind, she pulled him back up to her own mouth and took control by popping one button at a time on his shirt, and while she did so, she backed him towards the windows where she could illuminate the room with the healing powers of the sun. Their tongues danced and dueled for control as each had for four years, their hands sought the places they never dared touch, and they allowed each other the healing power of the love they shared. They slammed each other into the walls of his study, they danced across the floor together, and they allowed the passion of this new beginning to overtake them. They would do this correctly; they would do this right not because they had to but because they wanted to. They would fight, they would disagree, and they wouldn’t be perfect, but they would be together and nothing else in the world mattered.
Sometimes though, she forgot about his own insecurities and fears. Sometimes she forgot that the millionaire playboy who could have any woman he wanted and any toy he desired, felt just as deeply and passionately as she did. When she went to open the curtains, his hands stilled her and his eyes told her the story of a man who saw real standing in front of him but feared the light that would expose his own fault and sin. He feared falling in her eyes, he feared that being anything less than perfect would draw her away from him like a moth to a different flame, and it was an insecurity that she understood needed to be corrected.
She broke from their heated exchange and placed her hand on his cheek, “Don’t hide from me Rick. I forgive you. Let me see it all. Let the light show us the way.”
With that, she opened the curtains slightly allowing the sunshine to illuminate the room, and as he looked into her eyes, he saw the acceptance and the want that he so desired. Quickly, she moved to pick up the remote that controlled his murder board, and before he could protest, she turned it on and stared at the musings of her best friend. For what seemed a lifetime, she stood entranced by the screen, by the leads he had produced, and a single tear snaked its way down the contours of her face. Then she did something he didn’t expect, she turned it off and placed the remote back on his desk.
With an unexpected fire and frenzy, she once again surged towards him and they continued the dance that had been paused a moment prior. As stark realization hit him, he understood the meaning, he understood the sacrifice she was making, and it buoyed his heart with the power of the moment.
His hands wondered her body and hers searched for deliverance, a place to make her stand here with the man she loved. His desk seemed appropriate. With one fluid motion, she swept away the paper and the pen, she rid them of his betrayal, and brought him forth to take what she willingly offered. Their shirts would soon be joined by the black lace of her bra and the denim of his jeans while Castle roughly grabbed her ass and lifted her onto his desk. She had expected the first time to be slow, for him to take his time, but they were both overcome with a heated frenzy and a passion long over-due. They both surged forward, they tasted each other, feasted on each other, and allowed the wonderful mix of apple and cherry to accelerate their healing.
As they melded together into one, she pled with him to trust her and accept the trust she had in him and in return he worshipped her and forgave her for the mis-steps she made in this journey. Finally, after years of tension and a dance neither thought would ever end, they screamed each other’s name as pleasure replaced anger and love replaced heartbreak.
April 29th, 2012-New York City
Law Offices of Jeffery Horn
“Lindsey, I think I am done for the day. Let’s go home.”
“Actually, I think we have a situation.”
“I have been monitoring the news from Washington and they are reporting an explosion and fire at a residence. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, but they finally released the address. It’s his.”
“Has he called?”
“And we are sure it was his house?”
“Yes Jeff, I double checked.”
“Alright then, send the packages. You know what to do.”
“Close it down?”
“All of it. Find a safe place to retire Lindsey.”
“Lindsey, I can’t lose you. I can’t. Don’t argue. Go.”
“I love you Jeff.”
“I love you too. Now go, send the packages and disappear. I will find you, I swear. When this is over, I will find you.”
With tears in her eyes, “I know you will.”
*--This is quote by Helen Keller. Seemed appropriate.