Title: Trapped in Amber
Spoilers: Taken from one of the scenes in the promos for 3X01. Enter at your own risk
and squee with me as we start the countdown to an all new season!
Warnings: Abuse of the present tense? Shifting tenses, definitely. *headdesk* Oh, and this has not been beta'd, so all mistakes are mine.
Summary: Nothing disappears without a trace.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations herein are not mine. This story is meant solely for entertainment purposes. No infringement is intended.
She’s drawn recklessly toward his person, but knows she must adhere to the physical barrier as much as the emotional ones.
He is muted both in voice and color. It doesn’t unnerve her, for he’s always been a shade of grey to her. She was also prepared to see him that way; not necessarily on the opposite side of two-way glass and in handcuffs, but akin to a ghost trying to manifest itself. He’s been an ill-defined image in her mind, misshapen thanks to the protectiveness of self-preservation and time.
But nothing ever really disappears without a trace; there are fragments, echoes. She’s learned to brush those pieces aside, for they are just a reminder that she’s missing the most important one. She leaves the puzzle unfinished, slow but determined steps trying to lead her away from the enigma that is her relationship with Richard Castle.
And yet, at the same time, she’s a fly trapped in amber. He’s a hazard to be avoided, and one she’s compelled to crash into.
But there are consequences for her actions. Dare she open Pandora’s Box that smells of May flowers and hopes dashed, or does she don the perfectly sculpted protective mask and pretend all is well? There seems to be no answer to that question, and she is relieved, because it allows her a third option: to do a hard reset on their relationship. A loss of power with no warning – no preparation time – and a notification of error when trying to force it to work. An error that’s stored in memory banks for an infinite amount of time, so that if it’s repeated again, they have a quick and easy troubleshoot to employ. There is also an alternative; a safety install to ensure it never happens again.
She’s not a betting woman, but the odds of her forgiving the fantastical crash and burn of their relationship are, at this stage, slim to none.
Her own basic system tells her things will never be the same again; never “normal.” They’ll have to swallow the bitterness of uncertainty and being back at square one.
She sometimes likens their relationship to a chess match; calculated and deceptively simplistic. It’s an ironic description, for she always makes herself the black pawns, Death having contaminated her long ago, leaving him to be the white knight.
She blindly advances, not realizing the destruction of their protective barriers. Instead, her queen effortlessly overruns his defenses – did so, in truth, a long time ago – and he lets himself be captured, transferring ownership of everything he has and eventually bearing allegiance to her.
But when she declares the game over, he retreats anyway, sliding off the only black-and-white thing in life she understood as such, and walked into a warm sunset while leaving her out in the cold.
He went where she dare not follow, for he is the mistake she keeps making. She felt at the beginning like she was sinking slowly into quicksand, the agonizing pace serving to remind her how she was moving further and further away from what she wanted and couldn’t have.
But she was Kate Beckett. She wasn’t going under unless forced – and even then, she wouldn’t go without a fight to rival the Rumble in the Jungle.
So she keeps on, moving day by day, back into the routine of “before Castle.” And like she had before he’d come to the 1-6, they close cases. Do what they were sworn to do.
She tries to ignore the gaping hole in her side from where he’d been attached so many months ago.
Now the pain has shifted to her chest, and it presses down, rendering her helplessly oxygen deprived for a moment. This is not like the first time she’d interrogated him. Back then, she’d known he hadn’t committed the offense.
But today, she isn’t so sure.
It’s the Earth’s natural inertia – momentum deferred for a split second – that has her outside the interrogation room.
She clears her throat and straightens, shoulders back and determined. She still has a job to do; she promised Montgomery she could handle this.
The first thing he noticed about Kate Beckett was her eyes.
Bright, but not blindingly aware; instead balanced and inquisitive. He’s compiled a primer about her eyes, as they tend to belay her emotions most of the time.
They lighten around the edges when she’s exhausted. (That’s normally when he gets her a refill.) They darken when she’s knee-deep in something; when she is Lady Justice and Atlas simultaneously, bearing their weights and responsibilities – burdens so great men have gone mad trying to balance it all. (That’s normally when he gets her take-out.)
Her eyes get flecks of gold in them when she’s amused. (To him, these are what is precious in the world – and invisible to ignore. When he sees their reflection, it becomes his sole purpose to keep her that happy.)
Her eyes go black in intensity when she’s fighting through a case. (It’s most noticeable in interrogation, where suspects fall and are trapped into endless black holes, the truth the only thing that can save them. They try to claw their way out, yelling the final, definitive fact – if such a thing even exists – as a reminder that they are still there, still alive.) The color reminds him of a chess set; it saddens him, for it is confirmation that we are all pawns to somebody.
He stares at drooping ceiling tiles, spotted with water damage (then again, aren’t we all damaged?) and wonders how she’d describe them.
The door squeaks slowly, a death knell if he’s ever heard one, and he immediately knows he’s in big trouble. Everything is gone; not just her magnificent eyes, now dark and angry, but the trust they’d spend so much time building. The sense of déjà vu hits him like a tsunami; has it really been that long since the Tisdale case?
He can’t tell just by looking at her. And he’s looking, all right; staring right back at her inquisitor’s marble cast face, saying nothing, barely breathing, slowly blinking.
With every blink, time slows; there are bells tolling and reverberating in his head. In measured time, they tell him that this indeed is real. He cannot stir but must instead sit unmoving in a waking nightmare.
The accusations don’t bother him; it’s her eyes, looking at him like a perp.
She uncaps her pen and taps it rhythmically against the closed file folder. She leans back in her chair, seemingly nonchalant, and he does the same, even as his limbs turn cold and tight, and the most minor of movements could shatter him into a thousand pieces.
Pieces that now, he’s not sure she’d pick up and try to put back together. The expression on her face is not one he’s associated himself with, but instead, she sees him through the crosshairs of disbelief. Suspicion.
They dare not speak, nor breathe; much can be learned from things unsaid, just as it can be learned from sins said and prayed words.
The stalemate crescendos; expands to disproportionate levels so sharp he winces.
She sees his weakness, ways to gather her explanations, and smiles – just briefly, one corner rising in accomplishment and amusement, like the spider chasing the fly.
He is defeated again, and his chin drops to his chest in angry acquiescence. When it rises, she’s looking at him intently. She asks about his alibi and involvement with the victim, pen scratching across paper like nails on a chalkboard.
He fades away during her words, during her doubt. Self-preservation, really; he now knows the true meaning of pain.