Chapter 79: All you need is love
"It was at NYU. I met this guy. We got on pretty well. I'd have seen it sooner, if my dad hadn't been such a worry. But I was trying to help my dad, and failing, and he" – Castle correctly deduces that to mean the ex –"was at least making sure I ate, and slept. But then it all started to get too much." Ah. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Castle's good intentions very much included.
"I knew what I liked, by then. He was right in that zone. We got serious, and it was all good. So I thought. It took me a while to realise that I wasn't seeing much of my other friends. Somehow there was always something else we had to be doing, or somewhere to be where my pals didn't hang out. It wasn't overt, because I was spending so much time on my dad that there wasn't much time left over anyway. But I felt a little guilty if I wasn't with him, and he didn't seem comfortable with them. Still, other things made up for it." Castle feels a hot wash of jealousy, and forcibly reminds himself that a failed relationship more than ten years ago is no threat to them now.
"But then I noticed he was a little slow on the safe word." Ah, thinks Castle. Cinnamon dreams. "I called him on it, and it got better. For a while." Castle moves his hands out of sight. Beckett watching them clench into fists is really not likely to help. Everybody knows that if you're going to play those games you absolutely have to trust in the safe word. If someone starts messing with that… well, shit. No wonder plain vanilla Sorenson had been the first for a while. Much more fundamentally, he wonders how she brought herself to trust him. In the covering dark he can't see her face clearly. More importantly, she can't see him. He strongly believes that she'll only get through this tale if she can't see him, doesn't remember he's there. He pulls in his personality and aura, and stays still and silent.
"Eventually it got suffocating. He was always there; I never seemed to get any space. He called it taking care of me. It all came to a head when I registered for the Academy. He didn't like it. I told him it wasn't negotiable: that was what I was doing. He tried to tell me I couldn't. I told him to get out my apartment and never come back. Then I sat down and thought about the previous six months and realised what he'd been trying to do. In his screwed-up mind, taking care meant he had to take control, because he didn't think I could take care of myself. He thought because I liked it in bed I'd like it other times. I wasn't having that. No way." She pauses, and drinks most of the remains of her glass of wine; refills it and drinks another goodly portion of that glassful.
Castle thinks that while Beckett had done exactly what he'd have bet on her doing as soon as she realised, her ex didn't have the only mind that was screwed up about the difference between care and control. Her therapy hadn't gone half far enough.
"After I ditched him he started hassling me about getting back together, he'd change, it'd all be okay. I wasn't having any of it. One evening, he pushed his way into my apartment to try to convince me." She pauses. "When he put his hands on my shoulders – well. It wasn't pretty." There's a vicious, entirely humourless baring of teeth. "I wanted to kill him. All the anger about my mom and with my dad just spilled over. I really lost it. He left with a black eye and damn near a broken nose, and I'll bet a lot of other hurt. I never saw him again." Castle puts it all together in fractions of a second. It was only a nightmare, with no reality behind it. But when he'd put hands on her to wake her it had flipped her back to this other event. Even if she doesn't know it. He supposes he was lucky not to have his nose broken. Beckett takes a much smaller mouthful of wine, while he's thinking.
"But after that I didn't get involved. Too busy at the Academy; too busy trying to save my dad, until I realised I couldn't manage that: only he could save himself and I was going to drown myself trying; then too busy being a cop. I really respected my training officer, so I worked my ass off. And it kept me from having to think about anything else. There was no time for anything else, and all that anger got poured into solving crime, where it could be useful. Then Sorenson showed up, and you know how that played out. I went back to being a cop. Both times it was a lot easier to leave it behind than to try to work out what went wrong. What I did wrong." He can almost hear her mouth snap shut on that. He is perfectly certain that that was two sentences more than she wanted to say.
"I need some space." She's gone from the room almost before the words have left her lips. It's utterly predictable. He hears feet on the stairs and a door shut. No point in following. She's said she needs room. She'd told him yesterday that she would need room, and she wouldn't always know when. Well, he can give her room, if she's not running, because she's unknowingly told him something he's barely able to believe, given the way she'd behaved for most of the last four months. She's told him, quite, quite unwittingly, that she'd trusted him in bed almost from the very beginning. Which means that, however much she'd distracted, deferred and downright denied, she'd felt more for him from moment one than she'd ever admitted to him.
Or, it occurs to him, than she had ever admitted to herself. Well. He understands where she was at, now. Blind to her own damage: too many betrayals, too close together. Too much to deal with, and never unpicked. If she hadn't had a murdered mother, or an alcoholic father; she'd not have fallen into a dysfunctional relationship. Or she'd have recovered from it, as most people can, if they get themselves out of it. If she hadn't had a murdered mother, Sorenson would never have treated her like a victim. Though he'd still have been a jerk. And if all that hadn't happened, she might not have spent so much time trying to avoid a relationship. It's perfectly clear why she did, though.
He'd come off too much like that guy in senior year: fitted her in bed, wouldn't leave her alone, followed her around to get his own way. Ouch. No wonder she'd stayed emotionally backed off; pushed him away. She hadn't really moved forward till – till he'd started to show her he could, and would, step back. Till he'd told her, with absolute sincerity, he would leave, and never come back, if that's what she wanted; till they'd defined taking care to exclude anything that might pull her unconscious and conscious triggers; till he'd stepped back on the kidnap case to do the best for the child, not him or his ego or her. Only then had she started to believe he was different, and then really to trust him in more ways than for sex.
It took both of them to mess this up. Two damaged, defective people, pretending that they were okay, ignoring their own issues and history. One killing herself with work, one killing his better self with indifference to anything outside his door. One who thought he could have anything he wanted, one who didn't allow herself to want anything. One whose life is on page six, and one who hides in the shadows. One who'd just about brought herself to admit that she could trust him, and one who'd just about brought himself to admit he could love this woman; in both cases, in complete defiance of experience and common sense. Somehow, they've solved each other; dovetailed into each other's gaps. The attraction of complete opposites.
Upstairs, Beckett is trying to recover some composure and failing miserably. In short, she's panicking: leaning out of the window, balanced on the sill, (well, white-knuckle gripping, if she were honest) gulping in the night air heedless of how many small flying things she might be inhaling. She hates to remember how stupid and naïve she'd been; she hates to remember how she couldn't save her father for five years; she's spent the best part of ten years or so deliberately forgetting how she'd completely lost her temper into a black fog of fury and when she'd come out it she'd found that she'd beaten the crap out of a man who was, in theory, larger and stronger than she. (Not by much, though. Not like Castle.) She hates to remember that in those days she had been so angry, with no outlet. Now she channels it into fighting killers, and she's never lost it like that again. Not physically, anyway. She cringes as she remembers some of the words she's used to Castle, to try to make him back away. Now he's seen that she's not just capable of verbal venom, but physical, he's likely having second thoughts, whatever he's said in the last ten days. He hasn't repeated it, since then. Not since she started to open up. Not since he did. She comes away from the window and curls up around a pillow, trying to clear her head.
Think, Kate. Might be a good start, rather than just reacting. Castle came here. Despite all her words. And it's not as if she hasn't, in fact, been more than just verbally venomous: she slapped him. She's not proud of that. Not at all. Though what he'd said… Past, Kate. You've got past that.
And even if she ever did lose it; which is an absolutely ridiculous thought because she hasn't ever lost it like that again no matter what the provocation; he's big enough that she can't do him serious damage, because she knows that he can stop her. A man who can take her down in a fight. She just hadn't realised why she needed that. And he may not have said those terrifying words a second time, but then she's not exactly using them either. Which promptly panics her all over again. The pillow whumphs in complaint at the force of her grip.
Gradually she stops panicking. He's here. He's heard the worst of her story. He's shared his story, which certainly isn't pretty but explains everything. He hasn't run for the hills. Man up, Kate. Time to stop running away and leaving things behind, rather than trying to make it work.
Time to stop running.
Castle moves to the couch, switches on the lights, sips the remains of his wine, peruses a handy book, and waits. And, after longer than he'd like but a shorter time than he expected, Beckett does come back. He'd have to admit he's relieved, even if she said she wasn't running. But… she's collected her wine, come directly to the couch, and she's sitting down as close as possible without actually sitting on his lap. Not that he'd object if she did. He compromises with an arm firmly round her shoulders and a gentle tug towards him, which has the desired effect. Beckett curls into him, though it's noticeable that she's hidden her face against his shoulder, and although it's faintly possible that high-wires are more tense than she, he really doesn't think that's true. Extremely slowly, it occurs to him that she's worried about his reaction to what she's told him.
He sets his own wine down, plucks hers away to a safe location, and hoists her into his lap; pets her gently and soothes the tension away. Mostly.
"You're thinking too loud." He tips her chin up to see her expression, and prevents her automatic movement back down. "Stop thinking that you've put me off." There's a flash of guilt across her face, and he pulls her tight in, still stroking her back softly. "You can fight as hard as you need to, with me." She relaxes a little more. "I'll still be here." There's a soft breath below his chin.
"I knew you had a past. I've got a past. So what? The whole point about the past is that it is past." He smiles, open and relaxed and not worried at all. Because she came back down, and sat beside him, and hasn't run.
"Stop fighting the past, Beckett. The fighting's done, and we're still here. We can simply start clean, here and now."
Beckett nods, slowly. "Okay. Let's do that." There's a long silence, during which she relaxes fully into Castle's body and he loosens his arms. Finally she looks up into his face and smiles openly and in a way he hasn't previously seen: unbarriered, unrestricted. Then she smirks, very evilly.
"I think I'd prefer to start dirty." It takes Castle an instant to understand what she's just said. Then he acquires an identically evil expression.
"I think we can arrange that, Beckett." He runs one hand into the soft hair at the nape of her neck, and spans long fingers around so that she's held at a convenient angle. Her hands come up to his shoulders, bite in. His kiss is leisurely, sure, and utterly possessive. His other hand slides over her hip, keeping her against him, his little finger rests on the outside of her thigh, stroking slowly at the edge of her shorts, flicking over smooth skin. She tweaks his shirt buttons open, running her nails lightly over his bared collarbones; a little hint of things to come. He kisses harder, deeper; searching and finding domination of her mouth, pulling back to nip her lower lip and move to her neck.
"Mine, Beckett," he murmurs against her ear, and flickers a wicked tongue around the shell. "You're all mine." She slides a slim hand down between them, and stops slightly north of where she should.
"Yours, Castle? I think you might be mine." She puts considerable emphasis on the last word. He's not the only one who can use that phrase to mean far more than it seems to. Her hand moves the crucial distance lower, and his response is lost in a sharp breath. "You admitted it."
"True," he says smugly, recovering far too rapidly. "But so did you. And you admitted it first. Possession is nine points of the law." Beckett splutters.
"I'm the law."
"Yeah, and I fought the law and I won." There's another splutter, with considerably more disgust.
"Misquoting the Clash, Castle? That's low. Even for you, that's low." Castle produces a lazy, sensual smile.
"You're not disagreeing, though." He kisses her neck, and makes her wriggle. "Like I said, possession is nine points of the law. You're the law, and I've got possession." He tightens his arms, to prove it.
"That makes no sense at all," Beckett complains petulantly. "That sounds like a foreclosure. Are you saying I'm a house?" Castle doesn't even think before his mouth opens.
"You're home." There's a stunned silence. "You're mine and you're home and I am not leaving you."
Beckett is currently producing a very creditable impression of a stranded codfish. Castle takes wholly unfair advantage of her lack of argument and kisses her, taking her mouth in a way that leaves her even less able to think than she was a moment ago. When he lifts off her lips she's still gaping.
"Beckett?" There's no answer. He repeats her name, to as little effect. Despite her position no more than six inches away, she appears not to have heard anything. He tries a drastic solution. "Kate?"
"Huh?" It's Castle's turn to gape, mainly because he's still alive. She appears to recover some elements of composure and notices his dropped jaw. "What?"
"You just let me call you Kate."
"I did?" She did? When did she do that? She doesn't remember that. "Oh," she says weakly. And then, hardly more strongly, "B…but you can't." Castle's still staring at her, and she realises that that statement makes no sense either. Neither of them appear to be able to construct a coherent sentence right now. Naturally, Castle recovers first. Typical. Damn his writer's curiosity prodding him into intelligence before she's straightened out her own head.
"Why not?" It's a question for which Beckett has no answer at all, except possibly because you don't, which is unhelpful to say the least. She sits in paralysed silence.
Castle, in an unusual concession to common sense where Beckett is concerned, doesn't ask further. In any event, he's got better things to do. He sets Beckett on her feet, stands himself, and carefully walks her backwards to his room. When he kisses her again, it appears to cure paralysis.
"Where were we, Beckett? Before that interesting digression?" He slides a slow hand up the back of her t-shirt, taking the fabric with him, and pauses as he reaches the clasp of her bra.
"Starting dirty," Beckett says silkily, clearly fully aware of her surroundings once more. Very clearly aware, from the fact that her hand has just pushed his shirt off his shoulders and she's just nipped his lip. He runs his thumb down her spine and up again, very slowly, and then unclips her bra. She gasps against his shoulder, and bites down on the hard muscle there, runs her tongue lightly across the mark. He lets his shirt fall away, and peels hers off with the bra, presses her into him with a wide palm across her back, brings his other hand to slip into her hair and angle her head for his leisurely, searching, possessive exploration. He releases her slightly only to have space to run fingers round her waist and flick her shorts open, tease her momentarily with one long digit and then push the remains of her clothing away to leave her naked in his grasp.
"That's better. Just the way you like to be. Naked and" – he slips his hand down her back and between her legs to cup her – "wet and all mine." She's sure he's said that before. If she could think, she might remember when. But she doesn't remember it sounding like that, before. She doesn't remember it meaning I love you.
Being naked while he's still partly dressed dampens her further: makes her recall that he's bigger and stronger and taking charge. She squirms against his fingertips and feels him thick and hot against her: brings her hand to the buckle of his belt and starts her own in-depth explorations. She doesn't expect to get very far, and she's not wrong. She has, in fact, quite consciously invited exactly what happens, which is both her wrists held behind her back in Castle's large hand.
He lowers her on to the bed and follows her down, ignoring her complaints about his still-clad state. And then he spends a considerable amount of quality time ensuring that she has no ability to complain or even speak beyond the single word please at all, and that they both enjoy every last second of it.
She's curled right into him, soft and pliant and purring and oh-so-definitely his now, and he has to make sure that they both know it.
"Mine, Kate. Just like I'm yours."
From somewhere south of his shoulder, there's a small noise. It doesn't sound like contented purring any more, unhappily.
"I didn't want you to call me Kate." Okay, left field calling. "I didn't want you that close, at first. And then when I did it all went wrong anyway because I thought you were just like the others and it was another disaster all over again." Castle cuddles her in, and waits for the next piece of thinking. "As long as you didn't, I didn't have to think that it meant anything." She clearly feels the reflexive wince. "I could keep lying to myself about everything." Castle is suddenly paying very close attention. "I could keep pretending this was something I could walk away from without getting hurt." He'd swear he could hear the air forming words in her larynx.
"I could pretend I wasn't in love with you."
He's tightened his grip before she's finished the l, because she absolutely does not get to throw that out and run away and he can feel the bunching of her muscles and sure enough she's already trying to move.
"Nuh-uh. You're not leaving." Her face is buried in his chest. If he didn't have firm hold of her, she'd already be a mile down the road and accelerating, still terrified of what she's admitting. "You don't get to say that and run. You're my badass Beckett, and my Kate, and my love."
And just like that she stops fighting and lets him pull her up so he can see her face and kiss her and keep her in the protective, possessive, loving hold that she could stay in for ever.
"In the precinct, you still call me Beckett, okay?" She sees the mischief rising in his eyes and slaps a hand over his mouth. When he draws a sensual pattern over her palm with his tongue and then licks wetly over it she struggles to remember what she wants to say.
"But outside – you can call me Kate. Call me Kate, Castle." He logs the way Kate Castle feels on his ears, and says nothing about it. Then.
Some years later, he reminds her of her phrasing that night, when for the first time he calls her Kate Castle.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. Thank you all for coming along for the ride. I've appreciated and, where possible, replied to all of you, and had fascinating discussions with many of you. There are too many of you to thank individually, but I know who all of you are.
I hope that this has now explained how, and why, Beckett and Castle behaved in the ways they did, all the way along. Happy to discuss with any of you my reasoning now you've seen the story. You may assume, in the time jump covered by "Some years" that there is any necessary therapy.
There are no sequels planned, and no epilogues.