OPEN SEA

A/N: This is, quite frankly, something I hope we never see. But I thought it would be interesting to explore nonetheless.


She remembers once reading somewhere that a woman knows the face of the man she loves as a sailor knows the open sea.

When he comes in that night, with the bottle of wine in his hand and a weary smile on his face, she can tell that something isn't right.

It's not worry. It's not concern that she's drowning in this case.

He's been trusting her, knowing that if she needed him truly needed him she would come to him. She's grateful for that, grateful that they've reached a point in their relationship where he knows when to push and when to hold back.

He knows her.

And she knows him.

And something isn't right.

If she's the sailor and his face is the open sea, there's a storm brewing.

"You okay?" she asks softly, pushing up off the floor as she stands to greet him.

He nods, leans down to press his lips gently against hers. "Of course. You?"

The writer turns away to set down his jacket as she studies him, eyes narrowed, searching his face and his body and the set of his shoulders for signs of what's bothering him. She finds nothing.

"Okay," she answers as he turns back, letting a small smile curl her lips. "Long day."

"Long week," he adds, stepping into her space and pulling her into his arms. "But it's over."

She exhales against his chest, tucking her head under his chin. "For now, at least."

His breath stutters, and she tenses in his embrace, but then he relaxes, squeezes her tightly to him for a moment, and then loosens his grip. "How about I pour us some wine? Hmm?"

She lets him go, her eyes following him as he moves easily around her space, opening the drawer where she keeps the corkscrew, pulling down a pair of glasses from a shelf, his hand steady as he pours them each a glass that's a little more full than usual.

"Sure you're okay?" she asks as he sidles up next to her, catches her fingers to pull her down beside him on the couch.

His eyes are serious when he answers. "Shouldn't I be the one asking that question?"

She shrugs. "It's not easy watching someone you care about deal with something like this. Knowing there's nothing you can do."

The clench of his jaw marks his tension, his fingers flexing briefly against the muscles of her thigh where his thumb had started to swirl a mindless pattern.

"It's not," he confirms, but he says nothing more, and just as he allowed her that moment in the breakroom to work out her thoughts, she knows he needs a little space now, at least in his head.

She lets it go, leans back into the soft cushions, turns her body so she can reach him, so she can brush the tips of her fingers against the short hair over his ear. His eyes fall shut and he sighs, the sound almost startling in the otherwise noiseless room.

"We'll get him someday," she says quietly after a long stretch of silence.

His eyes open slowly, clouded blue, something she can't quite grasp churning in their depths.

"Kate," he breathes, and for a moment she thinks he's going to speak, going to tell her what's been troubling him.

But his lips press together when he meets her gaze, and he says nothing.

"He'll be starting that speech in just a minute," she murmurs, glancing down at her father's watch. "And he's right it could put him on the national stage. He could become president. But we'll get him."

She leans forward to set her wineglass on the table, but he catches her arm.

"Kate," he says again, and she turns back to him, tilts her head as he opens his mouth, then closes it again, a soft puff of air escaping his nose.

"I've been thinking," he begins. "And I should have said something earlier, but what if it wasn't"

Her phone trills, startling them both, and she reaches over him to pluck it from the corner of the coffee table.

"Beckett," she says, thumbing across the screen to answer the call.

She feels the blood drain from her face at the words that come across the line, her eyes lifting to meet her partner's, his eyebrows furrowed.

"I'll be there as soon as I can," she says into the microphone, and ends the call.

"Body?" he asks as he stands, picking up the glasses and strides across the room. She shakes her head though he's not facing her, stares down at the lifeless phone in her hands.

"Bracken," she whispers, her voice choked but carrying into the quiet. "There...there was another bomb."

She looks up, and though his back is to her, she can tell that the storm that has been brewing all evening has finally let loose.

"Is he dead?" he asks as she follows him to the kitchen sink, watches him set the glasses down, the side of his face just visible from where she stands behind him, watching him, taking in the darkness in his eyes, the twitch in his jaw.

"Castle," she says sharply, and his back stiffens, his shoulders bunching, though he doesn't turn around. "There's been something all evening. Something going on with you."

He doesn't reply. And like a sailor staring out at the open sea, she looks at him and she knows that the waves that lull her to sleep are the same that could capsize them both. The fathomless love of Richard Castle, its depths rising up in a tempest.

"You figured it out, didn't you?" she asks, her throat tight. "You started to tell me. You knew it wasn't McManus. You knew something was going to happen."

He pivots slowly, his jaw set, his face stony, his eyes a murky abyss. "And if I did?"

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