Miles to Go
Kate pauses, considering carefully what she’s doing. She really has no place in this matter, except maybe of that of a concerned friend. “What’s going on?” She keeps her voice gentle, pushing a little but slow enough that he can stop her whenever he wishes.
“Alexis,” he says slowly, as if still trying to wrap his head around it. “I didn’t tell her that we were leaving the city; I was going to today. But she found out, and now she’s angry with me. She thinks I put you before her. She…she left with Meredith for Lisbon!” The pained expression on his face causes her heart to clench as well. Kate can’t help but feel like this is somehow her fault, that somehow she’s responsible. But she knows Castle would never want her to take the blame.
“I’m sorry, Castle,” she says softly.
“I just don’t get it,” he says. He’s not really speaking to her; it’s more of a thinking-out-loud thing. “I mean, I screwed up, I know that. I would be surprised if she wasn’t mad. But…but Meredith? To Europe? Meredith practically redefined the meaning of child neglect!” Castle’s knuckles are white and clenched against the edge of the recliner. “And why would she jump to the conclusion that I’m putting you over her? It doesn’t make any sense!”
Apparently this isn’t a monologue after all. Kate frowns, thinking quickly before jumping in. “Think about it from her point of view, Castle. You’re right, Meredith left when Alexis was what, five? As great a parent as you are—”
“Not so great right now,” he mutters under his breath, but lets her continue.
“—as great a parent as you are, going from having a mom and a dad to just having a dad is going to be traumatic for any child.”
“Yeah,” Castle nods. “Alexis was heartbroken when Meredith left. She used to write letters all the time and give them to me to send, only for the first six months I didn’t even have an address. More than once I found her all dressed up sitting on the couch and waiting for Meredith to take her out for Saturday brunch like she always did.”
“Exactly. To Alexis, at least subconsciously, you’re acting like her.”
“Meredith left to be with her director,” Castle says slowly, putting the pieces together. “And I left…to be with you?” Kate chooses to ignore the romantics of that statement. “That’s nothing alike! I didn’t walk out on Alexis like Meredith did!”
“I’m not trying to blame you, Castle, I’m just trying to provide her perspective. I was a teenage girl once too. She doesn’t understand why you would just up and leave like that.”
“…because I didn’t tell her,” Castle says. “So, what do I do now? I can’t go flying off to Lisbon chasing after them.”
“She’s just trying to punish you. From what I’ve seen and heard about Meredith, Alexis will be sorry she went soon. I know Alexis acts like a mature adult a lot of the time, but you have to remember she's still a teenage girl.”
“It's hard,” says Castle. Kate waits for clarification before she responds. “It's hard trying to keep Alexis straight in my head. She acts like an adult most of the time, parenting me as much as I parent her. But when I look at her, I still see the little girl who would spend hours with her hands plastered to the window of the candy shop. And I have to reconcile those two images with the fact that she's my teenage daughter, getting older with every passing year and nearly all grown up.” While the candy shop memory had caused him to smile, with this last revelation his gloomy look returns. “I need some time to think,” he says. Kate understands completely. “You should call Lanie.” Her face pales and her blood turns to ice. It’s not that she forgot that Lanie was awaiting her call, but she’d been avoiding the encounter. She doesn’t want to have to explain her erratic behavior.
Castle seems to sense her apprehension. “You’d better do it. We don’t need two people mad at us for not calling.”
Kate nods unhappily. “Where’s my cell phone?” She moves to get up, ignoring the pain radiating from her chest. The pain is constant now and she can almost learn to ignore it. Almost.
He leaps to his feet, setting his laptop on the ground. “I’ll get it.” She opens her mouth to protest and then thinks better of it. Her muscles are already worn out for the day, and she has a sinking feeling she’ll be sore tomorrow. But every second with minimal pain and clear thinking is a gift, and she’ll take all of them she can get. It’s strange to think that just a month ago she was worried about interrogations and what she was going to wear that day. Now she’s just happy to not feel like screaming in pain and to be thinking straight, two things she took for granted so easily before.
He returns with her cell phone and then retreats to his room, whether to give her privacy or to give it to himself she doesn’t know. She stares at the phone for a second before dialing, readying herself. “Hey, it’s Kate.”
“Good to hear your voice, Kate,” Lanie says. “How’re you feeling, girl?”
“Better, Lanie, thanks,” she replies.
“Glad to hear it. Writer-boy was awful worried. We all were.”
“Sorry. It won’t happen again.” It seems wrong to make a promise she isn’t sure she can keep, but there’s really no other response she can give.
“Gave us a scare, but we’re just glad you’re safe. How are the nightmares?”
Kate shifts in her seat. “They’re still here. Not going away anytime soon I don’t think.”
“I’m sorry.” Uncomfortable pause. “How’s living with Castle going?”
Kate glances at the bedroom door. It remains firmly closed. “He’s great, Lanie. Really caring, sweet.”
“Aha,” Lanie says in a mischievous voice. “Javi owes me twenty bucks. He said writer-boy’d drive you crazy within three days running around your apartment like a chicken with its head cut off.”
“Actually, we’re not at the apartment,” Kate says in a strangled voice. “We moved to my dad’s cabin.”
“Wow, girl, you took him up there? I’m...I’m surprised.”
“Well, I needed to get out of the city,” she replies evasively.
“Kate, you’ve barely set foot in the place in twelve years. How’re you holding up? Does he even know?”
“No, he doesn’t. I’m fine, Lanie. I’m in my room and he’s in my parents’.” She can imagine Lanie’s raised eyebrows across the phone line. “Well, it seemed cruel to stick him on the couch. The memories in there, they won’t bother him.”
“As long as you’re sure, Kate. Is the cabin really better than the city?”
“Yeah, it is. Too many things remind me of the shooting back there. Here, everything’s different.”
“How much do you remember?” Lanie asks in a hushed voice.
Kate swallows. “Everything. The nightmares won’t let me forget a second of it. I remember...I remember standing at the podium, giving the speech. I remember the impact of the bullet and Castle knocking me down.” As she relates it to Lanie, it’s like she’s reliving it again. She clenches her fists and bites her lip to keep from screaming, and cuts the rest of her explanation short. “I remember the words he said to me, you, the ambulance ride, even the surgery. Even dying.” Fear-induced adrenaline makes her fingers feel like they’ve been dipped in icy water. This isn’t a flashback, and she’s grateful for that. Flashbacks are triggered; these are just frightening memories. Both cause trembling and fear, but only flashbacks can cause her to lose control. And she wants to stay in control.
“I’m sorry, Kate. Listen, are you and Castle…?”
“What?” Kate is shocked out of her reverie. “No! No, we’re not together. Why would you ask that?”
“Well girl, he did tell you he loved you at the funeral! Then you sent him away at the hospital, and now he’s back in your life even more than before. I had to ask.”
“No, we’re not,” Kate repeats, as much to herself as to Lanie. “His words at the funeral could have been desperation because I was dying. Do you think he wants to…be…together? I mean, I’m not sure—”
“Not sure! What is there to be not sure about? The guy’s been following you around like a puppy for three years.”
“He’s been following Detective Beckett. But I’m not her right now; I can’t be her. What if that’s who he thought he was in love with?”
“Come on, Kate. As someone who’s met both sides of you, there’s no way Castle could fall for one and not the other. The guy is crazy about you! And despite your little act, you are crazy about him.” Kate makes an indignant noise in her throat and Lanie scoffs. “What, was that supposed to be some big secret?”
“Yes,” Kate says emphatically. Then she realizes she just admitted to it. “No.” She pauses. “Do you think he knows?”
“Current living arrangements aside, do you remember how he used to be? Girl on either arm? You really don’t see that guy too much anymore. Why do you think that is?” Kate bites her lower lip. She wants to believe her best friend, but she just…her doubts are immutable. “He’s waiting for you. He’s doing all of this for you.”
“But what does he expect, Lanie? Maybe I love him and maybe he loves me, but I’m not ready for that kind of relationship right now!”
“Why aren’t you ready, Kate?”
She pauses to think about it. “Because of all this. Because right now I just need to focus on getting my life back, getting back to the precinct. Because…”
“Because I’m not sure I’m capable of that kind of love after my mom’s death.” There, she’s said it. Silence on the other end. “Lanie?”
“Of course you’re capable of it.” For the first time there’s an uncertain note to Lanie’s voice. Not something Kate wants to hear after sharing one of her deepest fears with her best friend.
“I gotta go,” Kate says. Her skin prickles; she feels naked and vulnerable after divulging something so dark.
“Kate, just wait a second. You two would be good together; we can all see it. And it’s okay if you aren’t ready right this second. But when you do get your life back, when everything fits into place again…you’re gonna have to take that leap. You can’t expect him to wait around forever.”
“I know. Goodbye, Lanie.”
She sets her cell phone back on the arm of the sofa, mind filled with disquiet. Despite Lanie’s convictions, she can’t accept that Castle really, truly loves her. Because she can’t even love herself right now, like this.
Castle jumps as his phone rings. “Castle.”
“Kiddo, what’s up? I just got your message. Is something wrong with Katherine?”
“Mother, why didn’t you stop Meredith from taking Alexis to Europe?”
“Meredith took—? To Europe? I have always said to that girl, she needs to learn to stand up to her mother. For how long this time?”
“Two weeks, but that’s not the point. Alexis chose to go. Without asking me. Or you, apparently.”
“Chose? Why would she choose to go without consulting you first? That doesn’t sound like Alexis at all.”
“She’s mad at me for deciding to go with Kate up to her dad’s cabin in the woods without telling her.” His mother tries to break in. “No, Mother, I don’t need a lecture; I know I made a mistake. But how do I fix it? Their flight left already for Lisbon and I can’t exactly go chasing after them.”
“Let the girl cool down for a day; let her get some perspective. Then call Alexis tomorrow or the day after and tell her everything. Spare no details. Treat her like an adult, the way she wants to be treated, and show her that you respect her and are sorry.” When said like that, Martha’s suggestion seems simple.
“But it’s not my story to tell; it’s Kate’s. She’s a very private person. You know that. This whole being injured thing is hard for her, and she won’t want to advertise it.”
“Richard, you need to make a decision. This is not going to just blow over. You cannot just sit it out. This is your relationship with your daughter we’re talking about.”
“And my relationship with the woman I love.”
“Then you need to talk with her. Explain the situation. I’d like as much as you a solution that leaves everyone happy in the end. But if the three of us can’t come up with one, then you need to decide where your priorities lie.”
When Castle emerges from his room, he looks just as perturbed as she feels. Kate can tell by the grim line of his mouth, and, though he says nothing, by the tap … tap … tap of the keys on his computer, followed by long lines of deleeete.
They exchange only terse words for the rest of the day and while he preps dinner. It’s obvious they’re not mad at each other, but neither is taking solace in the other’s presence either. After a few attempts to make conversation over salad and lasagna, both of them give up and sit in the silence of their own thoughts.
“Night, Castle,” Kate says about an hour after dinner. He’s reading the newspaper on his laptop.
“Night,” he says, giving her a sad smile. She glances down at the page number before closing her book. Placing one hand on the arm of the couch, she pushes herself into a standing position, making her way to her bedroom with the pace of the sloth. As she enters, she decides she really doesn’t like that comparison.
Kate flicks on the light and shuts the door softly behind her. After washing her face, brushing her teeth, and changing her bandages in the bathroom, she lays down on the bed, snuggling under the covers. As much as she can snuggle when every movement of her midsection causes pain to erupt in her chest.
Lying there on her back, she slows her breathing to try to quiet her mind enough to fall asleep. She’s been wondering if emptying her mind before falling asleep will prevent the nightmares from returning, and now seems as good a night as any to try it. Making her mind go blank for more than a few seconds, however, proves to be nigh on impossible.
She’s standing at the podium, the scene frozen around her. Her audience—including Lanie, Esposito, Ryan, and Castle—are still watching her intently, listening to the speech that is no longer flowing out of her mouth. Only he can move, the man striding towards her from behind the tombstones. She can’t even get a good look at his face, couldn’t describe him to a sketch artist if she wanted to. Not that she will get the chance.
Relaxed as can be, he ambles up to her. Everything in her is yelling for her to run, to kick, to punch, anything, but she is still frozen as he levels his sniper rifle to her chest, pressing the muzzle to her. All she can do is open her mouth in a scream as the bullet explodes through her chest.
The scream doesn’t stop when her eyes bolt open in bed, doesn’t stop until she realizes it’s her and she closes her mouth. Castle bursts in with a flash of light from the living room, silhouetting his form like an angel. Minus the wings.
“Kate! Kate, it’s okay. It was just a nightmare.” He rushes to her side, all love and concern. Her heart pounds in her chest and her face is wet with tears she didn’t even know she’d cried. “Kate…” he says her name again as he sits down next to her and smoothes back her hair. With much effort she scoots over to make room for him on the bed, head falling against his chest as soon as he’s settled. His warmth is comforting as he holds her.
All she knows is that he’s there when she falls asleep, and he’s still there through every shooting after that.