She had only been allowed a few minutes with Castle on Christmas morning before she was tiptoeing out of his loft in the early light of day to make it back to her apartment in time to change for work. Her day goes by surprisingly fast for a change, though, the whirlwind of wrapping up yesterday's murder of a man dressed as Santa who was strangled to death by one of his own elves (Castle is going to love this one) taking up the majority of her time and at this rate, she may actually be able to surprise him and return to the loft in time for Christmas dinner.
She's sitting at her desk by five, filling out the last of the paperwork, when something catches her eye.
The elephants. She had forgotten all about them.
Kate glances from the statues to her nearly finished paperwork and sets down her pen, reaching for the family of figurines instead. Shaking them, she can hear the same rattling sound she remembers from the night Castle accidently sent them toppling. With a furrowed brow, she pries open the back of the last elephant, the one her mom always said represented her.
They're a family, Katie. Just like us.
The colorful top pops and something falls free from the confines of the elephant's body, clattering onto the surface of her desk. Kate puts the elephants down and retrieves the tape, studying it for a sign, a label.
"Yo Beckett, what'cha got?"
Esposito is peering curiously at her from his desk across the bullpen. Ryan is off with his family, leaving them a team member short, but she doesn't doubt her other colleague would be giving her the same peculiar look right now as she stares confused at the cassette in her hand.
"Do you have a tape player by any chance?" she asks instead.
"No," Esposito scoffs. "But Montgomery does. Seen it in his office once."
Kate rises from her desk, tape clutched in her fist, and strides towards her captain's office. Roy is out for the day, enjoying the holiday with Evelyn and the kids, but she has access to his office for emergency purposes and she finds the tape player in the middle drawer of his unlocked desk.
Montgomery always jokes that she'll take his place soon, that he couldn't imagine passing down his spot as captain to anyone else, but as she sits at his desk and slips the tape in its player, the idea still fails to sit well with her.
For a moment, at her captain's desk with the cassette player in her lap, she hesitates. Her stomach is knotted with nerves, dread climbing her spine. She doesn't know what's on this tape, but if it was in those elephants, it likely belonged to her mother, and she already knows with sinking certainty, that this can't be anything good.
She presses play.
She hadn't planned to spend Christmas with Castle and his family, but after the catastrophe at the precinct, after she had watched the arrests take place, after she had been notified of Bracken's containment, after she had spent nearly twenty minutes fighting off a panic attack in the women's bathroom, she couldn't just go home. The thought of returning to her empty apartment had left her nauseated and she had ended up wandering through the city, already knowing where she would end up.
She knocks on his door before she can think better of it, hoping with everything she has that it will be him who answers, not his sweet daughter or his welcoming mother. She needs him.
The door swings open and she ducks her head out of reflex.
"How do you always know it's me?" she chuckles, still wiping at her eyes, but the moisture just keeps leaking out.
"I can hear your heels and I know your scent, what's wrong? Why are you crying?" Castle murmurs, abandoning the door and stepping out into the hall until he can reach her.
His hand is immediately at her face, his palm cupping her jaw with practiced ease, his thumb skimming beneath her eye, catching a fresh set of tears.
She steps into him before the sobs can breach the barrier of her lips, burying her face in the warmth of his sweater, curling into his embrace when his arms band around her shuddering frame.
"The tape," she chokes out against the hollow of his throat. "When you knocked over my elephants, you loosened one of the compartments. There was a tape."
"A tape," he echoes, keeping her steady with an arm at her waist, calming her with the stroke of his fingers through her snow-dampened hair.
"A taped confession. Hidden in the elephants on my desk. The man who killed my mother, Rick. It's all there."
He tenses against her, the arm around her tightening, and her sobs cannot be contained any longer.
Alexis and Martha pretended not to have heard a word said in the open doorway of the loft, pretended not to notice her red rimed eyes and mascara stained cheeks, but they both squeezed her extra tight when they welcomed her inside with their usual hugs of greeting. Castle had fed her leftovers from their Christmas dinner, Martha had poured her a glass of their best wine, and Alexis had made her laugh with her show of Benny and his array of Christmas sweaters, and it had been nice. It was unquestionably the best Christmas she had experienced in years, and it subdued the confusing swirl of agony overwhelming her chest.
She had never told Castle the whole story about her mother's case, not every heart wrenching detail, but after his daughter retired to her room, he had wrapped her in his arms, held her while the dam restricting the tears splintered once more and soaked his shirt for the second time.
He knows it all now. And she's still shell-shocked, still numbed from the betrayal of her captain, who had been a part of the conspiracy the entire time, and the final uncovering of the truth she had sought for so many years, but with Castle at her side, she finally feels that she can breathe again.
She decides to stay when he offers her an extra pair of clothes from his bureau to sleep in. They end up coming off mere minutes later at her insistence, but his skin against hers is enough to keep her warm underneath the familiar Egyptian cotton of his sheets.
"You okay?" he murmurs afterwards, combing his fingers through her hair, grazing his hand along the ladder of her spine.
She nods, knowing he can feel the action on the pillow they share, and he sweeps his hand up the naked skin of her back, following the trail of her vertebrae until he reaches her neck and can brush his thumb along the sensitive spot behind her ear.
"It just feels… surreal," she confesses, coiling her fingers at the wrist near her jaw, turning her head to smear a kiss to the beat of his pulse. "I had started to believe I would never get justice for her and now the man who had her and so many others murdered is going to prison."
"Christmas miracle?" he murmurs and she relishes the grin that spreads over her lips. The real miracle here is that she's smiling when without him, she thinks she would be curled up in her empty bed, hollowed out and raw.
Kate sighs and eases one of her knees between his as she pushes in closer, resting her forehead to the ridge of his collarbone.
"No, just you," she points out. "I wouldn't have found it without you."
"Kate," he says her name like a reprimand, but tightens the arm snaking around her back. "I didn't have any part in this. It was all you."
"Maybe it was fate," she quips and his brow creases adorably.
"You don't believe in fate."
"I believe in whatever brought me to you," she mumbles into the tender spot beneath his jaw.
"You believe in Benny."
Her own burst of laughter startles her and Castle grins, so proud of himself, and she has to muffle her mirth with his mouth, bury it in the welcome press of his lips
"Oh, your gift!" he says suddenly, pecking her lips one last time before jerking upright in the bed, snagging his boxers from the floor on his first try and jogging out of the bedroom, into his office without trouble.
Kate leans over the edge of his side of the bed, steals his sweater from the ground as he rummages through his desk, sliding the soft fabric that smells like him over her head while she waits for him to return.
Castle comes trotting back to the bed with a wrapped box in his hand, a shiny red bow adorning the top. He hands her the present with an excited grin and then crawls in beside her, frowning when he sidles up next to her.
"You put clothes on?" he groans, dropping his forehead to her shoulder and she laughs quietly, turning to press her lips to the top of his head.
"It's your shirt, if that's any consolation," she murmurs into his hair and he hums, low and throaty.
"I bet that's really sexy."
Kate smirks and returns her attention the box in her lap. He said he had gotten her a gift, but she had forgotten all about it after their Christmas together yesterday morning and the events of her day at the precinct. Excitement flutters in the pit of her stomach as she slides a nail beneath a flap of the candy cane themed paper, slicing the thin material open.
It's been so long since anyone has given her an actual gift.
Castle lifts his head at the sound, his gaze riveted to the slow work of her hands, and she grins, taking her time just to drive him crazy.
"Kate," he huffs, reaching to take the box from her, but she holds it out of his grasp.
"Okay, stop rushing me," she grins, sparing a brief moment to smudge her smile to his cheek before ripping at the paper for his benefit.
The lack of holiday paper reveals a white, rectangular box, but when she lifts the lid, she's met with a neat, black folder. Curiously, she plucks the folder from its encasing that she moves aside, and sets the hefty binder on her lap. She glances to him from the corner of her eye before she flips the top surface open, trying to gauge his reaction, noticing the nerves hiding behind his anticipation.
"I started writing it the day after I met you," he confesses after he hears the folder open, the first page on display.
Heat wave by Richard Castle
Kate's mouth falls, a breath of surprise escaping her lungs. It's a book, the folder in her lap holding hundreds of pages is an actual novel.
"My editor just finished working on it last weekend, but I knew it wouldn't be anywhere near ready for publishing in time for Christmas, so I hope you don't mind the hot off the printer look," he jokes, his chest taut against her shoulder, his breath held hostage, and she has to turn the pages, skim the sharp, black words staining the white papers that fly past her eyes. Her brief exploration ends on the dedication page and it's then that her eyes blur with the tears.
You helped me see what the word 'extraordinary' really means.
She makes sure the book is safe at her side and then she turns, wrapping her arms at his neck, pouring her appreciation, her love for him, into the cove of his mouth until he eases them both back onto his pillow.
"The moment I met you," she whispers, smiling softly as he valiantly tries to catch her tears, tries to wipe them all away. It's the second time she's cried all over him in three hours, the poor man. "That's when my life became extraordinary."
"Don't make me cry, Kate," he mutters, blinking too quickly. "I was doing so well at being manly today."
She laughs and swipes at his eyes anyway before resting her head to the middle of his chest, indulging in the lullaby of his heartbeat.
"I'm glad you came," he murmurs into the top of her head, carding his fingers through the curling strands of her hair.
Kate sighs and curls deeper into his side, smiling against his chest as the arm around her shoulders tightens. She's spent a handful of nights in his bed since they took their relationship to a more intimate level, but she's never felt quite as loved, as safe, as she does here with him now. She thinks her mother would be happy for her, proud even, and for the first time she realizes, she may be damaged but she finally feels whole.
"Me too," she admits, lifting her head to lean forward, brush another kiss to his lips.
Rick's hands cup her cheeks and she remains still, allows him his usual routine of mapping her face, fingers tracing with reverence and longing as they scale along her skin.
"I wish I could see you."
Kate shakes her head and leans in closer, bumping his nose with her own in his favorite affectionate gesture.
"You see me better than anyone else."
Inspired by: Castle and Beckett meeting. Castle is blind and never thought he'd meet someone like Beckett in a coffee shop. Castle also has a seeing eye dog. But anyways I'd really like to read something like this. No matter what's wrong with a person there's always the possibility for love.
A/N: Thank you to Nadia who took the time to make me such beautiful cover art and thank you to all of you for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts and wish you all the happiest of holidays.