Hurt and anger warred within him, creating an emotional storm that threatened to engulf him.
Kate remembered every second.
She remembered his desperate confession of love, how he had pleaded with her not to die, not to leave him… and she had lied to his face.
Why? Rick had waited years, letting Kate set the pace and boundaries of their relationship. He'd never pushed beyond what she was comfortable with.
If Kate – no, Beckett, he had to think of her as Beckett, or he really would break down in the middle of the precinct – had told him she wasn't ready for a romantic relationship with him, he would have respected that. Rick knew how to be professional, when he had to. If she didn't want to ruin their partnership, if she didn't feel the same way, if she returned his feelings but needed time, if she feared making him a target…
Rick would have pretended like his confession never happened, or maintained their friendship until Beckett was ready for more, no matter how long it took – whatever she needed from him. Heck, he had played along when she claimed to have remembered nothing.
But she remembered, and she had lied.
Kate had lied, and fled upstate, and cut off contact for months.
That had hurt, even more than the paralysing fear that crippled him from the moment she vanished into the operating room until he saw with his own eyes that she was stable and recovering. Beckett had always been honest with him, sometimes brutally so. It was one of the things he admired most about her. Suspect, witness, friend… Beckett was always honest, because she refused to offer false hope or empty comfort, or promise more than she could keep.
But in one of the most important moments of his life, she had looked him squarely in the eye and lied.
He'd tried not to love her, he truly had.
Rick had been hurt in love before; he never wanted Kate to become another regret, like Kyra and Meredith and Gina. Their early days of shameless flirting and tart rebuttal worked so well because there was no risk. Then true friendship and respect crept in, in a way that he hadn't had with his first love or either of his wives.
He'd tried keeping the Detective at a distance, pushing away even as he was drawn to the lodestone of her controlled passion. Then he'd tried to be happy for her while she was dating someone else. He'd failed miserably at both.
He'd tried to approach her in the attempt to begin a relationship, as a boyfriend or lover rather than just work partners. In a deeply frustrating turn of events, they'd either been pushed to put it aside for the sake of a case, or something/someone popped up to get in the way, or the timing was just wrong.
Or maybe Kate was just never interested, and considered him enough of an oversized child to press her, the way he'd pulled strings to be able to hang around the precinct. That hurt, too. Castle might fixate on what he wanted, but there was a difference between following Beckett until she bothered to look past the annoying-but-useful exterior to the character Castle kept hidden behind the mask, and sexual harassment.
Even when he acted the Playboy, Castle had lines that he didn't cross. Signing a fan's cleavage at their invitation was not the same as pressuring someone who specifically requested a signature on the book. Indulging himself with a sex scene for the fictional Nikki Heat was entirely separate from kissing, touching, loving Kate. Hoping for requited feelings was different from refusing to accept that they were unrequited.
Well, if that was the case, then Castle would just have to start the process of getting over the unspoken rejection.
Step one: leave the precinct so that he couldn't run into Beckett and blurt out something he'd regret.
Step two… ice cream? A trip somewhere that involved a one-night stand or brief fling? Distracting himself until he could face Beckett and convincingly pretend that everything was normal.
That might take a while.
Alexis was away, and his mother could handle herself for a weekend.
Castle pulled out his phone as he stepped into the elevator, opening the app for his preferred airline and selecting the first destination that popped up.
Las Vegas. The perfect place to drown his emotions in hedonistic distractions.
He wouldn't kill off Nikki Heat – there was still too much to do there. He wouldn't stop hanging out with Ryan and Esposito and even Beckett - they were some of his strongest friendships, hurt feelings aside - but he could start the process of getting over Detective Beckett.