Stories are simple; they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Life isn’t, and life doesn’t. Their life has three beginnings, all as special as each other, and all as vital.
Their first beginning goes like this:
She introduces herself as Kate and thanks him for the recently acquired signature. Her eyes never leave his.
He doesn't introduce himself; the cardboard cut-out does that for him. But he gives her that smile, the one reserved for his conquests, and does it anyway.
'It's Rick. And believe me, the pleasure is all mine.'
She doesn't mention she's a cop, but then he never asks. It's funny, she doesn't mind in the slightest (this is all make-believe anyway)
He bids her farewell with a kiss on the cheek, leaving her with 'Until tomorrow.' It's hopeful, and she smiles.
But tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow means the end of make-believe and affairs and the return of reality. The return of Kate Beckett, NYPD.
And tomorrow she won't regret giving him a fake number.
Their second beginning goes far less smoothly. It probably has something to do with her having to bring him in for questioning about a murder.
The unease in her stomach grows as she takes in the crime scene before her. She knows this too well; she's seen (read) it too many times before. But she shoves it aside and is the first to comment on the oddity of it all. When no one catches on, she does everything in her power not to hit whoever is closest.
'Don't you guys read?' is said through gritted teeth, and when someone finally suggests they should probably bring Richard Castle in for questioning, she does not make a scathing comment, instead sighs in resignation and drives to get him. God forbid anyone get there first.
She introduces herself as Detective Katherine Beckett, NYPD, (thanking God that there’s no one there to ask why she doesn’t use her actual name) and takes him in for questioning. He offers to let her spank him, and she finds a picture of him riding a police horse. Naked.
He doesn't remember her.
She lets go of the breath she's been holding since she first ducked under the yellow tape.
Though she hates to admit it, they fall into this kind of rhythm. She goes out and solves crimes, and he- well, he hangs around. (Oh, and he solves crimes, but she tries not to dwell on that) The more he makes her laugh, the more she pretends to be annoyed at him. She’s learned to forget that they knew each other once, a long time ago, and is just thankful he doesn’t realise it
(Though sometimes, just as she’s falling asleep, this week’s killer put away in jail she lets herself wonder what would happen if he knew who she was. And what he was to her.
And even more rarely, she finds herself wishing for it.)
They’re about six months into their tentatively titled partnership when he starts to look at her funny. It’s not a bad look, exactly, just loaded one (loaded with what exactly, she’s hesitant to guess), but it makes her more uncomfortable than she’d care to admit.
‘Haven’t you got somewhere else to be?’
There’s a moments hesitation when he realises she caught him staring, but his expression quickly reforms and he bounds up to her.
‘Well, my dear detective, that is the entirely wonderful thing about this deal I have going with the mayor. My somewhere else to be, is right here.’ He taps the file she’s currently writing up with his index finger to emphasise his point, and she groans in response.
‘But isn’t this just awfully dull for you? Not to mention distracting as Hell for me.’
‘I can deal.’
‘Yeah well, Castle, I can’t. Go home.’
‘But I’d much rather be here.’
Then something shifts between them, then that gaze is suddenly on her again, then they are suddenly way too close to be considered normal. Especially at work. But somehow, he’s not moving away, (and neither is she) and her question is just left hanging as she leans towards him, all thoughts of paperwork abandoned –
A sudden noise makes them both jump, and Kate lets herself feel relieved (and not, under any circumstances, disappointed) as she answers the ringing phone. It’s another murder.
His answer remains unsaid, and for now, she won’t (can’t) let herself dwell on it.
And she doesn’t. Mostly.
But she’s noticed he’s stopped looking at her in that way, so maybe it’s a good thing.
But then again, maybe it isn’t.
She wishes she wasn’t so damn conflicted about this. About him.
And so sleeping dogs are left to lie, and suddenly she finds two years have passed. Gina has come and gone, so has Tom, and finally Josh. For a while, nothing happens. Then suddenly, he asks her out.
It’s not a date, she reminds herself. Just dinner. And maybe drinks. Between friends. With nothing after. (‘And Denial is a river in Egypt,’ remarks Lanie when Kate finally lets it slip.)
All things considered, it goes quite well. He picks her up at her apartment and makes exactly two jokes about the length of her dress. They stop by his apartment on the way there- he says he forgot something, but Kate’s convinced it’s got more to do with the fact that Alexis didn’t quite believe he’d finally asked her out. They walk to the restaurant (a quiet place where they call him ‘Rick’ and ask to be introduced to his lady friend), then, not quite content yet, he insists they go get ice-cream. But still, it doesn’t feel like a date, or rather, no more like a date than any of their undercover adventures have.
(Okay, she may have been a little more relaxed than normal, and he may’ve held the door for her un-reprimanded, and perhaps neither of them corrected the waiter when he referred to them as a couple, and alright fine, it feels a bit like a date.)
The ice cream has been consumed, and she’s a little cold; the alcohol is still buzzing through her system a little but she’s not sure if it’s just happiness, and suddenly it feels perfectly natural to loop her arm through his, and lean her head on his shoulder. If he’s as surprised as she is by her gesture, he doesn’t show it, instead leaning onto her just a little, giving as good as he’s getting. They walk like in silence for some minutes, just enjoying each other’s company, and they reach a bookshop, its front window crowded with a display of Castle’s latest book.
‘Pity they didn’t get you quite right,’ she teases, pointing at the life-size cardboard cutout of Castle in the window, ‘You’re not nearly as handsome as that in real life.’
‘I’m sure you’ll find countless sources who’ll beg to differ. Besides,’ he adds after a moment, ‘they got my size right, and that’s really all that counts.’
‘Really, because I could’ve sworn he’s bigger than you.’
‘He’s just standing on a step- of course he’s bigger. Taller. You know.’
‘Oh Castle,’ she sighs with mock-empathy.
Silence falls once more as she finds herself staring up at the cardboard face. ‘I came to see you once,’ she mused. ‘One of your signings. I think it was for Unholy Storm.’
Castle perks up considerably, she can see him smiling, eying her sideways. ‘Oh really? Kate Beckett, a serious fan. Who knew?’
She turns to face him, half smiling, half annoyed. ‘You did, I thought.’ She gives a small laugh. ‘It feels like forever ago. I was so young.’
‘I was so young. I was much more of a playboy then, you know.’ His smile gives away the tease, but she takes him up on it regardless.
‘God, I’d hate to have known you then. You must’ve been a handful.’
‘All publicity is good publicity.’
‘Did Gina see it that way?’
A fraction of a pause, then – ‘She would’ve, if she wasn’t too keen on getting in my pants herself.’
‘So, Kate. Did I sign your book for you, Dearest Kate, Keep reading, R Castle?’
‘Something like that.’
She has the feeling he’s leading up to something; something which, at the minute, she doesn’t really want to deal with. The wind picks up, and so she pulls him from the bookshop, down towards her apartment.
He walks her to her door (not a date, not a date), and finally uncurls his arm from hers. It chills in the absence, and she reaches into her pocket for her keys, but he doesn’t move. He’s got that look, the one she thought he’d forgotten he had. But it’s different this time, it’s much closer, for one, but much rawer, less calculated, as though he’s struggling with something, not just doing it to piss her off.
‘What?’ It comes out a little snappier than she meant it to, but once it’s out there, she can’t take back.
‘I- oh, nothing. It’s-’ He fumbles, rocking on the balls of his feet.
‘Why did you introduce as Katherine the first time we met?’ It’s out in a rush, and her mouth falls open slightly, taken aback. At her lack of response, he continues hurriedly. ‘It’s just, I’ve never heard anyone call you Katherine, ever. And that includes your father. You don’t even refer to yourself as Katherine- not even Lanie calls you it when she’s annoyed. So, why use it with me? ‘Cause I’ve been thinking-'
‘Stop.’ She takes a step towards him, looking up into his face, and places a calming hand on his gesticulating arm.
‘The only reason,’ he continues slowly, looking her directly in the eye, ‘that I can think of, is that you didn’t want me to know you as Kate. Which stands to reason that I did know you as Kate, and you didn’t want to be recognised.’ She doesn’t answer, but he leans down towards her, rapidly closing the space between them by placing his other hand on the small of her back. ‘So Katherine, where was I going to recognise you from?’
He’s playing a game with her; she knows that. He knows she knows he knows they slept together. Or something like that. The point is, they both know, but he wants her to say it. To admit to the thing she’s managed to keep hidden for so long. But two can play at that game.
‘It was the book-signing.’
‘That’s all.’ She leans her head up to his mouth, smiling slightly, but he pulls away.
‘See, the thing is, Kate, I don’t buy it.’
‘What’s there not to buy? I was embarrassed to be your fan, especially when pulling you in for questioning. I thought you may’ve remembered me. Clearly you didn’t, so I became Kate again.’
‘Castle,’ she all but growls, starting to feel the frustration at being so close to him, nearly kissing but not quite.
‘Rick,’ he insists.
‘So we’re playing this game, are we?’
‘It’s no worse than the one you’re playing.’
‘And which one would that be?’
‘The one where you’re trying to get me to admit that we-’ she quickly falls silent, stunned that she nearly fell for that one.
He laughs, ‘Oh, detective. You nearly fell for the oldest trick in the book.’
‘You’d think NYPD’s finest would be above such petty tricks like that.’
For good measure she shoves him in the shoulder. Not enough to bruise, but enough to hurt.
She just shrugs at him, but can’t help but smile.
‘You gave me a fake number.’ His voice has gone quiet, speaking with absolute sincerity.
‘I- yeah, I did.’
‘You gonna say why?’
‘You were a famous author. A famous, playboy, author. I didn’t want to become a booty call.’
He gives a small sigh. ‘Fair enough. But know I didn’t often ask women out as I was signing their book. And even less often did I sleep with them. That normally comes after breast-signage, not book-signage.’
It’s funny, it’s like this weight she didn’t even know existed has been lifted from her mind; she can’t help but smile. So she leans back up to him, wrapping her arms around him properly, whispering against his lips. ‘So that makes me special or something?’
‘Or something.’ But he’s smiling and she’s smiling and their lips finally meet as he draws her, if possible, even closer to him. She groans into the kiss slightly, trying to absorb the heat that seems to be radiating from his entire body, and takes note at how his hand clenches at her back at her every noise. His other hand is in her hair, pulling it back off her face again and again, and her hand slowly slips up the inside of his shirt, revelling in the coolness of his skin against hers.
It could be the end, but ultimately, it’s just their third beginning.