Three word prompt? "ask me again" OR prompt based on Into the Blue by Sara Jackson-Holman
I thought this would be our last case.
She doesn’t know why Castle’s words strike her with such a finality, a sharp pang of fear and rejection that she doesn’t understand lancing through her chest, but they resound through her mind long after he’s delivered the blow. She should be relieved - he would be in the Hamptons for an entire summer and Kate would… she’d be with Tom and it’d be great, it is great.
What if great isn’t enough?
Kate drags a hand through her hair and stares down at the phone grasped in her palm. She’s still stinging from the salt Esposito had thrown in her unexpected wound, her dinner with Tom lost to her wandering mind. He’d driven her home, placed a gentle kiss on her lips and wished her a good night, and she should feel content, happy, not knotted up inside.
But the idea of Castle leaving has her stomach in tangles and her heart too heavy in her chest and it doesn’t make any sense to miss him so fiercely - to miss him at all - when he’s not even gone, when she doesn’t even like him to begin with. Except…
She does like him. She likes him a lot.
Beckett tugs at the collar of her turtleneck, the material suddenly too tight, constricting her throat, and swipes her thumb across the screen of her phone, brings the device to life and pulls up Castle’s contact information. Maybe… maybe if she just talked to him, smoothed out the awkwardness she had tried and failed to avoid earlier that morning, made him feel less like a nuisance and more like the close friend he had become - maybe that would eradicate the uncomfortable throb resonating through her sternum.
Kate sighs and presses the call button, purses her lips and breathes steadily through her nose while she waits for him to pick up, wondering for the first time if he might actually ignore her call on purpose-
“Detective Beckett, you’re calling rather late this evening,” Castle answers, his greeting infused with its usual charm, but tonight it sounds far more forced than she’s ever heard. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Her lips part, but for a few horrifying seconds, her words become clogged in her throat, nothing but air escaping her lungs, and she can practically hear Castle’s demeanor change.
“Kate, are you okay? Is there someone there-”
“No, no,” she gets out, finally, her heart slowing into a more comfortable rhythm, soothed by his concern. Ever since the Scott Dunn case, he’s subtly become more protective, still unhappy with her current living arrangement because he wasn’t convinced the current place she was renting was safe enough for her. He wasn’t exactly wrong, but - not the point. Not tonight. “Sorry, I just - Castle, I wanted to apologize for earlier-”
“Apologize?” he echoes in confusion. “For - wait, about the Demming and the beach house thing this morning? Beckett, come on, there’s nothing to-“
“You’re still - my partner, you know?” she informs him, biting her lip when he actually goes silent. Never a good sign for Castle. “Tom and I may be together, but you’re still - there’s no one I’d trust more to have my back.” To be her only backup.
She can hear him release a long breath. “Is this your way of saying you’ll miss me when I’m gone?”
Kate exhales quietly at the teasing tone of his voice, plops down on the edge of her cheap new couch that is far from comfortable, and drops her head back against the top of the sofa. “Well, you will be gone a whole summer.”
“Is that a yes?” he gasps and a huff of laughter escapes her this time. “You know, maybe that long of a break is a bit extreme for-”
“Castle?” she murmurs when he pauses mid sentence, grumbles something under his breath.
“Sorry, Gina’s been relentless these last few days,” he mutters, irritation evident in his voice and tampering down the ridiculous hope that had risen in her chest at his mention of the summer, where that sentence had been headed. “Listen, Kate, do you mind if I take this so I can talk to you in peace and I’ll call you right back?”
Beckett gnaws on her bottom lip, tries not to think too hard about how much she relishes in the sound of her first name in his mouth.
“You know, it’s getting late. Handle Gina and we’ll pick up this conversation tomorrow,” she compromises softly, brushing her thumb back and forth along the smooth silver of the ring decorating her finger.
“Okay,” Castle says, something about his agreement gentle, tender, and her heart does a flip in her sternum, stumbles against her ribs when it lands. “I’ll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams, Detective.”
“Until tomorrow,” she replies, cursing herself for it the second the words are out, his words, and withdrawing the phone from her ear before he can respond.
Shit, what was she doing? She’d already turned down his offer to the Hamptons, turned him down more times than she can count within the past year, but she just… she doesn’t want to turn him down anymore. And maybe it’s too late, they’ve yet to prove their timing as anything but awful, but maybe there was still time.
She had to break up with Demming.
They hardly have the chance to talk the next morning, to pick up the conversation that had been put on hold the night before due to his persistent ex-wife and publisher, and it has her itching to solve this case even faster. But her hopes still remain dashed even once the case is put away and their afternoon is cleared of all obligation when Castle is forced to leave early, drop Alexis off at Princeton.
“I’ll be back in time for the surprise party the boys are throwing me,” he tells her on his way out, his eyes a gleaming bright blue, tugging his lips up in the corners as he stares back at her with a puzzled expression. “What?”
Beckett shakes her head. “Nothing, just… looking forward to picking up where we left off.”
Surprise splashes through his gaze and Castle takes a step closer to her in front of the murder board. “Are you sure you’re okay? Because you look like you want me to go so I can hurry up and come back and that is wholly unlike you, Beckett. ”
She rolls her eyes and smacks his arm. “You wish.”
“Oh, you know I do,” he grins, swaying when she shoves his chest with her palm. “I’ll see you.”
“Mhmm,” she nods, watching him walk off towards the elevators, a spring in his step that she wonders if she’s responsible for, that adds a slight spring to the beat of her heart. One that falters and collapses as Demming comes into view, excitement about Asbury and their weekend away still written all over his face.
She’s not sure what she wants, what she’s doing, but ending things with Tom before she makes a regrettable mistake later, before she can truly hurt him, is one of the few courses of action she’s certain of right now.
Castle is back quicker than she had expected, not long after her final words with Tom Demming have been exchanged, and she gathers her breath again before she joins their team in the break room, snags a bottle of beer for the sake of something to busy her anxious hands with.
She catches his gaze with the hook of hers, the smirk of her mouth and the line about not needing to drink to take him. That definitely ignites some intrigue in his eyes.
“Castle, do you have a second?”
Lanie shoots her an encouraging look, but Kate ignores her best friend’s thrilled expression, ignores the boys and her captain sharing curious gazes, and instead leads Castle out of the room, into the relative privacy of the hallway.
“Alone at last,” he chuckles, smiling back at her as she fiddles with the bottle in her hands, picking at the paper label with her thumb. “What’s on your mind?”
Kate takes a deep breath and he notices, that same intrigue from mere seconds ago back and blooming through his eyes.
“Look, I know that I’m not the easiest person to get to know, and I don’t always let on what’s on my mind,” she begins, averting her gaze to the wall for a breath of a moment to gather her courage before redirecting it back to him, holding his eyes with everything laid out in hers for the first time since she’s met him. Because just this once, she wants him to see. “But this past year, working with you, I’ve had a really good time.”
“Yeah,” he smiles, his eyes softening into a beautiful shade of blue. “Me too.”
“So - ask me again.”
The smile falls from his face, his brow creasing, but he already has an idea of what she means, she can see it in the bewildered spark that races through his gaze, ripples through his features.
“Ask you again?” he repeats, drifting in closer until they’re barely an inch apart, his torso nearly bumping into the bottle of her beer. “You mean - to the Hamptons? You want me to ask you-”
“Yes,” she murmurs, pinning her bottom lip between her teeth for what has to be the thousandth time in the last twelve hours, her nerves like ravenous butterflies through her insides, ripping her to shreds.
“But what about Demming and - and the beach house and the weekend-”
“We broke up. Earlier, I… he wasn’t what I was looking for right now,” she confesses, pieces of the bottle’s label floating to the floor like confetti beneath the relentless scratching of her nails. “I wish I hadn’t… Tom is great, but he wasn’t - right.”
Castle’s adam’s apple bobs with the quick swallow that ripples down his throat. “This is why you called last night?”
Kate’s fingers go still when Castle covers one of the hands clutching the bottle, stilling her nervous ministrations. “Yeah. This wasn’t necessarily what I had planned, but it’s - I don’t want to regret not saying yes to something I want.”
“You want… okay,” he breathes, straightening up in front of her and drawing one of her hands free, holding her slender fingers between his, and she’d laugh at him, if she could find the ability to breathe properly past the percussion of her heartbeat nearly drowning out his words. “Come to the Hamptons with me, Kate.”
The ridiculous smile blossoms across her lips, calms the rhythm in her chest, and Kate nods, tugs on the hand tangled with hers until he’s drifting with her out of sight from the window she knows their friends are using to spy on them. She has no intention of doing anything necessarily worth hiding, but then Castle slips his free hand along the edge of her jaw, into her hair with his palm cradling her cheek.
“Was that a yes, Beckett?” he murmurs, his lips twitching with amusement, his eyes dancing with the same vibrant joy she fills fluttering through her chest.
All she has to do is lean forward in her heels, smudge her lips to his in a kiss that is tentative and new and has frissons of electricity sparking from the moment they touch, twining through her veins and setting her entire body alight.
“Yeah, Castle,” she whispers into his mouth, smirking against the breath he sucks in. “I’ll go to the Hamptons with you.”