44: Free my soul

Much later in the afternoon Beckett peruses her dresses and tries to decide which would be best. Castle had left, telling her not to wear jewellery because he'd have her matching necklace and bracelets: he'd collect her at seven for dinner at half-past.

Finally, she puts on soft ivory silk underwear, sheer black stockings, and the cherry-red dress he'd bought her, sits calmly and waits for him to arrive, a small black purse beside her. When he arrives, clad in dark dress pants and shirt, he raises an eyebrow.

"My dress, kitten?" She nods, suddenly as unsure as the moment she'd put on his collar to go to dinner at the loft. Maybe she should have chosen the crimson silk in which they'd first become… acquainted. He smiles ferally. "Good girl. That's what I hoped you'd wear." He raises her up, extracts collar and cuffs from his pocket, and puts them on her. "Mine. No-one but us will ever know it's not a necklace and bracelets."

His smile changes to marginally more mischievous, eyes twinkling suddenly. "But I couldn't resist these." He delves into his pockets again, and opens his fist to reveal a pair of earrings: two small links of silvery chain with a little rhinestone – she thinks it's silver and rhinestone, with a tiny green glass dot for an eye – cat attached, tiny, delicate, discreet and stylishly humorous. "Our private joke," he says happily. She smiles in return.

"Where'd you find these?"

"I know a guy…"

"Mmmm?" she hums, and puts them in at the mirror, turning her head to admire them.

"He makes jewellery. I met him when I was writing Clara Strike for Storm. It was interesting, so I asked him about it, and he let me watch for a while."

Beckett recognises Castle in full curious mode, and rapidly comes to the conclusion that the poor jeweller had been grilled harder than a melt from Murray's Cheese.

"They're pretty," she says with kittenish satisfaction, twists around and kisses him. "Thank you."

Castle smiles back. He has no intention at all of telling her that they're real: platinum, small diamond chips, and an emerald eye. She'd only argue about it, and while he's fairly sure he'd win in the end, he doesn't see the point of an unnecessary fight. They hadn't been at all expensive, by his standards, and in fact he'd judged it very carefully so that she wouldn't work out they were real for some time, if at all. If he wants to give his Kat presents, he will. There had been some other very pretty items indeed, but a two-carat cat's eye ring, while amusingly apt, simply wouldn't have suited Beckett's fingers – or indeed fitted easily through the trigger of a Glock; and the other items couldn't have been passed off as costume jewellery.

"There," he says with satisfaction. "Let's have a look at both of us." He steers her round the bedroom with a hand on her back and positions the pair of them so that they're reflected in the full-length mirror. "Yes. Perfect. The red and the black."

"I really hope not, Castle. Unless you're planning a self-sacrificing, tragic end?"

"You've read that?" Beckett nods. Castle regards her with unalloyed admiration, and then kisses her hard until she's breathless. "You are amazing." He kisses her again, much more slowly and seductively. "But now it's time to go, kitten. Dinner, and dancing. I'll lead, and you'll accept it, and be very, very happy with it." He extends an arm, and she takes it, falling into the spell of the evening.

At dinner, conversation is light, and restricted to socially acceptable topics. The car… had been an entirely different matter. Castle had placed an arm around her immediately, just enough force to let her know that curving in was not optional, and had proceeded to purr into her ear all the way to the restaurant, without otherwise touching her. I own you had only been the start. "Next time, I'll dress you," he'd said. "Panties won't be part of that. I know you're wearing them tonight, but we'll discuss that naughtiness later." She'd been instantly damp, wriggled a little, and he'd held her still in the crook of his arm and murmured darkly in her ear until the car stopped. Then he'd growled deeply, "Are you ready?" and she doesn't think that he'd meant for dinner. As dinner, possibly.

Conversation may have been socially acceptable, but every so often Castle had stroked her hand, drawn little circles around her palm, patterns that he's used in other ways, in other places, other times. She is wholly conscious of the look in his eyes, the restrained force behind his occasional touches, the power in his body. Anticipation is rising in her blood and veins, driving her higher, as he had predicted months ago, telling her this story – and she is certain that he hasn't forgotten a word of the story he'd trapped her in, the first time after he'd shown up on a murder case; back in a dark, secretive club in a dingy, seedy street.

And now dinner is done, and they've come to an elegant, sophisticated dance parlour where waltzing is the order of the evening. The floor is busy without being crowded, women in elegant dresses and men in smart clothes, swooping and swirling to the live orchestral music under the soft light. Castle extends his hand.

"Would you like to dance, Miss Beckett?"

"My pleasure, Mr Castle." She peeps flirtatiously through long lashes, and smiles seductively.

"It will be," he murmurs, like water through gravel traps. "You're already thinking about it." He puts a hand on her back, takes her hand as her other moves to his shoulder in classical waltz position, and sweeps her on to the dance floor. Two steps in he's caught her against his broad chest, his hand across her back spread wide, fingers spanning from the small of her back to her shoulder blades. A little lower than classical ballroom would expect, to be sure, but she really does not mind that. Nor does she mind the taut muscles of his thighs or the strength twirling her around the floor. She flows over him, and relaxes into the comfort of knowing that she need decide nothing, simply follow his lead. He is, she notes, an excellent dancer. For now, he's not murmuring any more.

Three dances later, Castle directs them back to a discreet table in a quiet, dim corner where a bottle of chilled white wine and two glasses are mysteriously already present. This table is set catty-corner, not opposite each other.

"You dance well, kitten. We fit together just perfectly, don't we?" He pours the wine, and lifts his glass. "To crime-fighters and Kats."

"Authors and owners," she replies, and shivers sensually at the hot look in his eyes, nibbling her lip.

"In a minute we can dance some more. For now, we'll just sit here and share the wine." He moves a little closer, looms a little, bigger and more dangerous. His hand rests on her knee, hidden by the tablecloth and the dim light. "Hands on the table, kitten." One slips round the stem of the wine glass, one resting almost casually beside it. "Good girl. We match each other beautifully, dressed for dinner and dancing in a smart establishment." His voice drops, slinking over her and collecting somewhat north of his hand. "Later, you'll fit perfectly by me and with me and into me. Just like you fit perfectly against me when we're dancing, head on my shoulder, pressed into me, right where you want to be. You like it when I'm leading, strong arms around you, nothing for you to do but follow and lean on me. You'll always be able to lean on me."

His hand moves a little higher, fingers spreading across her leg. She breathes in, a little surprise, a little lust, complete acceptance as she shifts a fraction closer. "I love knowing that I can do this for you: turn you from tiger to kitten with words. Knowing that you'll spend all day demolishing bad guys and lowlifes with one fell glare and a raised eyebrow – and a Glock – but when you come home, when the case is finished, you'll simply want to let go and give in. Mine, just like now. My pet, my kitten-Kat." His touch moves a little higher, the tips of his fingers dangerously close to indecency, sliding the cherry fabric an inch left, an inch right.

"Ah," he breathes. "Tell me what you're wearing, kitten, under your pretty dress?"

"Stockings," she murmurs silkily.

"Stockings, hmmm?" His flexible fingers rub gently, till she emits a quiet mew. "And?"

"Ivory," she husks.

"Mmmmm, delicious." The words fall unctuously from his tongue. She wriggles. "Even if you are wearing one item too many. Still, we'll talk about that later." His hand flickers briefly upward and then returns to the table, twining over hers. "More wine? Or more dancing?" There's a very tiny hesitation, and Castle realises that choices are not what his Kat wants. "Dancing, then. The wine will wait."

He rises, extends a hand meaningfully, and swishes her back on to the dance floor, this time not even pretending to start with a classical hold. He brings her close in, lays his hand across the small of her back, and folds her right arm in to tuck her against his body. She feels so very right, soft against him, and when she leans her head on his shoulder and relaxes completely, trusting him to steer and lead and keep her safe, he feels that he could simply cradle her there forever.

Some while later, the wine drunk, the last dance danced, Beckett excuses herself before the journey home, and returns with a smooth, feline slink, lip-gloss reapplied, and a slightly guileful air, matched by a part-sly, part-sensuous smile, though there's an air of uncertainty under that. Castle doesn't ask. He doesn't think he needs to, because he recognises the slight uncertainty from the night she came to dinner wearing his necklace. He intends to confirm his deductions, but she won't be telling him in words. There won't be words from her, once they've left this place, until they get home.

The car is waiting outside, a luxurious sedan with – among other less relevant extras – a privacy screen. In the dark, that's just fine. Still, no point in attracting attention.

"I know what you did back there," Castle murmurs. "Now, no noise, kitten. Not a sound, till we get home." He opens the car door for her and waits while she settles herself, then gives the driver his address. His kitten looks a fraction surprised. "My place. No-one's home, no-one's going to be home. Just us." He establishes himself beside her, dropping his arm around her shoulders so that his mouth is by her ear. He can feel a little tension in her, a little fretting. "You're just as you should be, now. Naked and open to me, and you did it without me telling you to. Clever kitten." He strokes her hair gently, sensing her relax into his words and the game, falling into the spell of his words and dominance in the way she wants to and needs to and will always be able to; forever and ever as long as they both shall live. "The question is, am I going to give you anything you want, or am I going to make you wait and wonder? So many choices, and all of them mine."

He rests a hand on her arm, the other on her knee, over the material of her dress. "Give me your hands, kitten." They arrive neatly in his, as asked, and his thumb strokes gently over them. He leans closer, and nibbles gently at her ear, following up with a flick of tongue over the nerves behind it. She opens the arch of her neck to him, and sighs almost inaudibly.

For the rest of the short ride Castle's hands don't move an inch. Every so often he kisses Beckett. He does nothing else at all. He doesn't talk, touch, or insinuate. Even the kisses are light, brief, and delicate.

He doesn't do anything untoward in the elevator. One arm stays around her, but that's it, apart from a single smoothing down of the skirt of her dress followed by a wolfishly quirked eyebrow.

He doesn't do anything when he opens the door and ushers her in, politely. She had, by this stage, expected him to fall upon her with roughness and command – anticipated it more with every second he hadn't laid a finger on her, and now she's hopelessly aroused by what he hasn't done. Still he does nothing, leads her to the couch and sits her down, lands next to her and curls her into his arm.

"You wanted me to keep you, kitten. Keep you safe in the dark. Is that still what you want?"


"I'll take care of you, when it's all too much. Just the way you like it. You need me. Just like I need you. Is that what you want?"


"You're mine. Always mine. Whether I'm following you when you're kicking ass at the precinct as Beckett or you're kneeling naked by me as my kitten, you're mine."

"Yes," she breathes, and then, "as long as you're mine too."

"Yes," he answers. "Yours, too."

She delicately stretches up, undoes the catch of her dress and flexes bonelessly to undo the zip. By the time she's pulled it down, his shirt is open and when she stands, drops it and her bra to the floor and makes to kneel, he pulls her back on to his lap and cuddles her against his chest and tells her that tonight he is keeping his kitten in his lap where she can, if he so pleases, be stroked and petted and cosseted for as long as he likes, since she'd been less than pettable for a little while. Which, he tells her, was also naughty. Kittens, he carries on, are supposed to be soft and cuddly, at times.

All the time, he strokes her in completely neutral areas. He whispers in her ear exactly what he might be doing, and isn't. Every second of it, he induces her to think that he might do some of it right now dammit and doesn't. It's the most erotic non-sexual touching she's ever experienced and it is not fair.

He has, it is very clear, discovered how to stroke every single one of her nerve endings without actually touching any of them, and – just like the very first time, way back when it was a one-time thing, way back on a January night – his words are leaving her wet, wanton and whimpering, desperate for him to back it up with touch. He'd first seduced her with words and barely a touch, and here he is doing it all over again. The combination of the soft, deep, dominating voice and the utterly erotic suggestions as to how he'll handle, take, touch and tease her are lodged between her legs. The small muscles of her core are fluttering. Every so often he tells her not to come, that he'll know if she does, that if she does he'll have to take measures to teach her better obedience.

By the time he finally picks her up, carries her through his bedroom door, which is really not that far, and spreads her out across the bed, she's implanted her teeth in her lip and is close to drawing blood with the effort of not coming. The slight pain is really not effective against the overwhelming arousal drumming through her veins and pulsing in every part of her. She almost loses it when he raises her arms above her head and restrains her hands, leans over her and murmurs now you're all mine, now you'll come for me.

And then he proves it. Everything he'd purred or whispered or murmured, everything she'd imagined from his words, everything she needs and wants is in his touch and kiss and body. In the end, they're wrapped together, his hand holding the leash and lying between her breasts, spooned in.

"We fit," he rumbles into her neck.

"Mmmm," is all she manages, and snuggles against him more comfortably. "Mine," she adds possessively after a minute.

"Yours? You're my Kat."

Beckett acquires a very feline expression, and stretches luxuriously against him.

"Oh, Castle. Don't you know you can't own a cat? They own you."

Some unspecified time period, but many months, later…

"I don't like this collar as much any more," Castle says lazily, as they finish dinner and repair to the couch in Beckett's apartment for coffee. Beckett raises an eyebrow and then smiles mischievously.

"I do," she says. She bats eyelashes at him. "Are you going to tell me you don't own me any more? That I need to find a new Kat-lover?"

Castle scowls at her. "Naughty kitten. No. You're mine. I still own you." He kisses her possessively. "I'll prove it, later."

"So why don't you like my collar? I like it." She rubs sensuously against him. There's a short pause while verbal proceedings are replaced by some petting and stroking.

"I think you need a new one."

He slips off the couch. Beckett-now-thoroughly-kitten mews crossly at him. "Where are you going?"

"I got you a different one."

He disappears and shortly reappears with a box.

"Show me, please?"

"Kitten… Beckett…" He takes her hands, looking a little uncertain. "I said I'd keep you. I meant it." There's a tiny tremor in his grip. "Kitten, if you want this one, it means you're mine forever. Katherine Beckett – will you marry me?" Her face splits into a smile of unconfined joy, she nods, wordless, and then simply kisses him as he slides the ring on to her finger. A little while later they resurface.

"You haven't actually answered in words, Beckett," Castle says jokingly. His kitten smiles very naughtily.



So, we are done. As ever, you may assume that in the time jump were some difficulties, some deep conversations, and quite possibly some serious therapy, on both parts.

Thank you all for coming along on this strange journey with me: I know it's sometimes touched a nerve, or been difficult to deal with, for many of you and been really quite off the wall compared with most other interpretations of who Beckett and Castle are - so I'm very grateful that you've borne with me. I appreciate every reader, reviewer, and all those who follow or favourite. Thank you all, again.

In shameless self-promotion, there is a new story nearly done, which I will promise you all now is absolutely nothing like this one. It will be called Timepiece. I hope to see you there.