So This is Goodbye
What makes up Kate Beckett? This is the question Castle has been gnashing his teeth over for an hour already, but his paper is still infuriatingly blank. He’s uncapped his favorite gel writing pen for the occasion, black ink that can look midnight blue at just the right angle. It reminds him of murder scenes, how looking at the clues just the right way can lead to solving them. It is just the pen he needs to figure Beckett out. He’s also turned his phone off for good measure. For this, he needs complete concentration.
What does he know about her? He knows she’s a cop. He knows her mother was murdered. He knows she likes her coffee as a Grande skim latte, two pumps sugar-free vanilla.
But none of that helps him puzzle her out. Or maybe it will. Maybe the key is hidden somewhere in the basic facts he knows about her. It’s hard because her mind is so foreign to him. She’s a constant surprise, and he’s always finding new aspects of her he never would have expected. Will he ever know the full and unabridged Kate Beckett? Will he ever, as she put it so eloquently three years ago, peel off all the layers of the Beckett onion?
Well, he thinks, it starts right here, right now. Where to begin… He decides to start even before the defining moment in her life. He makes the first bullet point. She’s an only child and grew up in Manhattan in a fairly well-off family, though she went to public school. Stuyvesant, he remembers. Stuyvesant High School, reserved for highly gifted students. What were her interests as a kid or as a teenager? From the murdered magician’s case he knows she was fascinated with magic. She was a fan of comic books, which he never pegged her for. Because of her father, she was also a baseball fan. Unlike most girls her age, she modeled instead of waitressed for a summer job. And, of course, she had her “wild days” that she staunchly refuses to drop more than vague hints about.
Then there are her college years. She studied pre-law at Stanford—probably influenced by her mother’s career, he thinks—and spent a semester studying in Kiev. She dreamt of becoming the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court before…before her mother’s murder.
Johanna Beckett’s murder is most important. It’s that moment in her life where everything changed, her hopes, her aspirations. Castle tries to imagine the effect losing her mother might have had on Kate, but he cannot. He never knew his father and imagining Martha gone when he was nineteen doesn’t work so well either. He has the feeling that Kate and Johanna had a much closer bond than he and his mother did even if it was just because it was a mother-daughter relationship. Castle is an expert on mother-son and father-daughter through Martha and Alexis, but he can barely guess at the true depth of loss Kate felt at the death of her mother.
After that there is just saving her father from alcoholism and her life as a cop. He can’t help but feel like he’s missing something somewhere, because the pieces aren’t making sense. None of this explains why if she does love him, she won’t say so. Didn’t she just have an up-close and personal demonstration on why she can’t afford to wait? After that brief moment of doubt at the hospital, Castle refuses to consider the possibility that she doesn’t love him back. He can’t face that thought yet. He also rejects the idea that she doesn’t remember. When it comes to life-changing moments…people don’t just forget.
“Richard, I’m ho-ome!” The door slams a little harder than he would have liked. “Richard? Oh, there you are.”
“Hello, Mother,” he greets her, hiding his paper under one of the couch cushions.
“What are you up to? Writing?”
“No.” A thought occurs to him. “Although only because I’m stuck on this plot point. If you, say, loved a man who also loved you back, what are reasons you wouldn’t tell him you loved him?”
“Richard,” Martha admonishes. “Are we talking about two characters or you and Detective Beckett?”
“Characters,” Castle replies firmly.
“I have raised you, Richard Castle, you cannot hide from me. You—tragically—did not inherit my great acting skills. Now, what is this really about?”
“Fine, it’s about Beckett and me.”
Martha sits on the other end of the couch, disposing of her flashy handbag on the coffee table. “How do you think she knows you love her if you haven’t told her? Have I taught you nothing? You have to tell a woman how you feel, subtlety means nothing—”
That stops her, her mouth hanging open as she processes his words. “When?”
“At the cemetery. After she was shot.”
“Does she remember? It was a very traumatic event.”
“She says she doesn’t, but I don’t quite believe her.”
“Then you have to tell her!”
His deepest fear, the one that he had refused to consider, just kind of spills out. “Mother, what if I’m wrong? What if she doesn’t love me after all?”
“Richard Castle, a woman does not put up with a man like you for three years, go to his silly parties and poker games if she doesn’t love him. Now you have to—”
“Put up with a man like—no, that’s not the point. It’s just…if she says no, then it’s the end.” He swallows. “There’s no going back from this. If she says no, then it’s the end of my days at the precinct, working her cases; it’s the end of Nikki Heat. I can’t walk into that place every day knowing that she doesn’t love me back, that all this I’m feeling is unrequited.”
“But is that worse than living in miserable ignorance?”
Castle pauses, considering. “All right, I’ll talk to Beckett.”
All he knows as he drives to the hospital and walks down the hallway towards her room is that his hands are shaking with nervous tension and half his resolve is gone. There are voices coming from her room where two armed police officers wait outside. They size him up as he approaches.
“No, listen, Josh,” she says. He slows down, listening intently. Her voice is tired and strained. “I don’t want you to put your life on hold for me. Go do your rounds, go to Africa.”
“Kate, it’s not a problem. I want to,” the doctor replies. There’s a pause. “You’re…you’re breaking up with me? This is it?”
Castle stops in his tracks, unable to believe what he’s hearing. Jim and Martha were right after all. Kate does love him. He’s so glad he could start dancing, right there in the hallway.
“I’m sorry, Josh.” She sounds exhausted, emotionally and physically drained.
“This is about him, isn’t it? Castle. The author you’re always talking about, your partner at the Twelfth.” Josh’s voice is rising in pitch and volume.
“No, I get it, really. I was always second to you. I’m just sorry you finally came ‘round.” There’s a loud banging sound. “God, I was so—” he stops for a second, then in a quieter, calmer tone says, “Goodbye, Kate.” He strides out the door, coming face to face with Castle.
Josh’s eyes narrow, and Castle wonders if he’ll punch him in the face again, give him a bruise on his left to match his other cheek. But the MD just glares at him before pushing roughly past him and continuing on his way.
Castle rounds the corner with a big smile but stops dead again at the expression on Kate’s face. Forlorn. Lost. Regretful.
She looks up suddenly to see him, surprise registering in her eyes. She hastily wipes away what he thinks is a tear, saying, “What are you doing here, Castle?” Her voice is defensive, and it’s not how he expected to be treated at all.
He looks at her carefully. Her face is pale and drawn. Unlike before, she’s wearing makeup again. It had been a shock to see her without it, not because it diminished her beauty in any way, shape, or form, but because it made her seem more...vulnerable. A word she would never sanction use of in reference to her.
Now, however, she looks a little like a dog that’s been kicked too many times. The only part of her that vaguely resembles Detective Beckett is the fierceness in her eyes as she waits for his response.
“I said I would come by again, later,” he replies. “I saw Josh...leaving. Is everything okay?” He pretends he didn’t hear any of the conversation, trying to respect her privacy as much as he can. “Storming out” would be a more accurate description of what Josh just did.
“Everything’s fine, Castle,” she says unconvincingly.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?” He’s serious. He wants to give her someone to open up to. She’s obviously not fine, and despite her evasions and forced happiness he doesn’t think she’s comfortable here.
Kate looks at him, weighing the truth and sincerity of his words. “I’m just tired, Castle. They’ve started taking me down a notch on pain meds and I’m not sleeping so well anymore.”
“Are you having nightmares?” She doesn’t seem inclined to say any more, just sigh and close her eyes. What he has to say can wait until she’s more rested, more up for it. Now that she’s broken up with Josh, he finds that he doesn’t mind the wait. “I’ll stay with you if you want, so you can get some rest. Maybe someone sitting with you will help keep the nightmares at bay.”
“No,” her eyes are open again. “You should go home. Be with Alexis, Martha.”
“Okay,” he agrees reluctantly, standing to leave. He’d forgotten a key thing about Detective Beckett. She doesn’t let anyone in. Ever. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Do you mind if we don’t?” Her words stop him in the doorway. “I just...I just need a little time.”
“Sure,” he says, hating every word. “How much time?”
“I’ll call you, okay?”
He looks at her with hurt and longing for a moment but nods. “Of course.” He leaves her, lying there in her bed in the hospital. And once he’s out of her room, he doesn’t look back.
Jim was wrong after all. She may not want Josh, but she doesn’t want him either.
He makes it back to the loft on autopilot, sinking down on the couch with his phone in hand. Why did she send him away? What on Earth had he done wrong? Even if his romantic feelings are unrequited, why does it feel like their friendship has just ended as well?
That’s the worst part. He doesn’t know. Which means he doesn’t know how to fix it.
Kate slumps back on the pillows, crying for real now. She hadn’t meant to send Castle away, it just...happened. He had caught her in one of her weakest moments, and she had reacted defensively. Retreated back into her shell. But she can’t even call him back now, because he’ll want an explanation. And Castle is the last person she can explain these feelings to.
Tears still streak her face when Lanie returns, and she doesn’t even try to hide them from her best friend. “Oh, Kate...” Lanie breathes. She takes Kate’s hand in hers, brushes a wisp of hair out of her eyes. “What happened, honey?”
“I broke up with Josh,” Kate says softly. Crying is just making her chest hurt more.
“I sent him away too.”
“I’m so sorry, Kate,” Lanie says, sympathy brimming in her eyes. She squeezes Kate’s hand. Unlike everyone else, Lanie doesn’t require an explanation.
“I’ve started to have nightmares, too, ever since they started cutting back the drugs. I see their faces every time I close my eyes.”
“Montgomery. My mom. Raglan.”
“You should try to get some sleep, Kate. I’m going to stay right here, so you don’t have to be afraid. I’m not going anywhere.”
“No, you don’t have to—”
“I want to. Perlmutter can take my shift at the morgue, okay?”
“Okay.” She sounds like a small child. She knows saying no to Lanie won’t do any good anyway. She closes her eyes.
A shot rings in her ears. There are sirens and screams coming from all directions. Everything’s fading away again, this blackness swallowing her. She’ll never see any of them again.
Kate jolts awake with her nails digging into Lanie’s skin. The ME doesn’t seem to mind. “Don’t be scared, Kate. I’m right here,” she tries to reassure her.
“Why does this keep happening?” she asks. “Why do I have to keep reliving it, over and over again?”
“This isn’t really my area of expertise,” Lanie looks uneasy. “But I would guess that it’s some form of PTSD. You should talk to Javi about it; he has some experience.”
“M’kay,” says Kate noncommittally. Unfortunately, Lanie knows her too well for that to fly.
“Nightmares are nothing to be ashamed of, Kate. Neither is PTSD. So don’t toss away help because you think we’ll see you differently.”
“Okay, I won’t,” Kate promises. “But really, you should get back to the morgue.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay, Kate?”
“I’m sure.” She gives her friend a brave smile. “Go.”
With an uncertain glance, the ME reluctantly leaves. Kate settles back on the pillows again, dreading falling asleep. After only a few moments, her eyes flick open. A new determination fills her, the likes of which she hasn’t felt since she first arrived in the hospital. The kind she hasn’t felt since she died.
She will get through this. She will put Castle out of her mind and concentrate all her energies on getting better, getting back to the precinct. She doesn’t need anybody else’s help for this, not now that she’s found her strength again. This is the resolve that allows her to solve every murder case. This is the iron-hard resolve that fuels Detective Beckett.
This is the resolve that will allow her to become Detective Beckett once again.