A/N: If you've come back to read this final chapter, I applaud you! Apologies for the long delay in finishing. Life sucks sometimes. Anyway, unless you have a photographic memory as good as Mike Ross on Suits, I'd recommend giving the last chapter another scan before you start.
Anyone remember sweet Aunt Libby? :)
Somewhere No One Knows My Name
Castle opened his eyes, squirming at the excruciating tickle of wicked little circles being drawn amidst the hairs that dusted the outside of his thigh. He kissed Kate's temple and tightened his arms and legs around her, squeezing her body gently to encourage her to stop torturing him with her neat rounded nails while he peppered her ear and hairline with revenge kisses.
"I feel drugged," Kate muttered, sagging against his body and deeper into his embrace. "Castle, did you drug me when I wasn't looking?"
Castle chuckled. "You're woozy, Kate. Relaxed. If there are drugs involved...I think we just shared the natural high they call oxytocin."
"Mm, I want more of that," she hummed, love-drunk and sated.
They were both naked, lying in bed. Castle was propped up on a heap of pillows and Kate propped up against him. She rested seductively between his legs beneath a single silver-gray sheet. Dawn teased the sky outside with the faint auroral promise of another big reveal.
Kate sighed loudly and then released another in a string of unfiltered thoughts. Thoughts which Castle was thoroughly enjoying. "I don't think I ever want to move again. Does your mom do room service? We could just hide out in here forever."
He slipped his hand beneath the sheet to stroke the flat of her belly, allowing his thumb to tease a slow circle around the sensitive dip of her navel. "The only movement I want you making is that sexy roll of your hips, Detective."
Kate tutted, hoping to sound indignant, but she couldn't fight off the grin that bloomed on her face. So she let him see. With her head dropped back against his shoulder, she flicked out her tongue to lick the underside of his jaw, which was salty with dried sweat and roughened by stubble.
"Does that make me your sex slave?"
Castle grinned at such a sexist idea falling from Kate Beckett's lips, of all people. But he was happy to play along with the fantasy as far as he could push it. "Mm-hmm, I kept the position open just for you," he joked, keeping things light and fun between them, before he drowned them both with the real strength of emotion he was feeling that morning. "And after last night's performance, you definitely get the job."
Kate smirked and arched back to kiss his chin as a thank you. They were both tender and raw, still healing from the hurt they'd caused one another, and still struggling to process the giant leap they'd just made in the space of one long afternoon and evening. Kate ran her fingers up and down Castle arms, needing to touch him simply to prove to herself that she could.
Castle nuzzled his nose into her hair for the same reason. That she wanted his touch, leaned into it, and his newest discovery of all - that she craved him right back - all felt unreal and astounding.
And yes, he tried to keep things light, just as she did too. But in truth there were moments when Castle felt his eyes grow moist and his heart clench, he was so elated that they'd finally made it. And then there were other times when he felt so excited that he wanted to run around the loft with no clothes on, screaming and hollering at the top of his voice with unabashed joy.
Instead, and not to scare Kate off, he took deep, luxuriant pleasure in just lying here with her naked body pressed up against his, enjoying a moment of post-coital bliss that he never wanted to end.
Kate was elated too, in her own deeper, more sedate way. "We still work," she whispered, transferring the attention of her rogue fingers to the sheen of coppery hairs on his arms.
Castle hummed his approval. "Were you worried we wouldn't?"
Kate shrugged, but her stomach clenched at the thought.
"We've mastered everything else," he pointed out, giving her a squeeze when a rush of affection made his insides giddy and his manhood stir.
"Like what? Tell me," she demanded, tugging at the sheet as she settled in for a story from her favorite author.
"Like…I don't know…like the fact that we can read each other's minds."
"Mm." She grinned, getting silly. "What am I thinking right now?"
"How sexy these tan lines look on my legs."
Kate burst out laughing. Castle's legs were tan until the level where his shorts had hit, leaving the skin above much paler.
"What?" Castle protested. "I love your sexy golden skin. Shorts and sundresses are definitely something I want to see more of from now on. And I hope you brought those little red cowboy boots home," he winked.
She smacked his thigh and then settled back down, politely thanking him for the compliment. "What else?" she pushed, enjoying this game.
"We finish each other's sentences."
She wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, most couples don't do that though. Not until they're really, really old. Does that make us weird?"
"Nah, we're ahead of the game."
"Oh, good word, Detective."
Kate yawned and stretched. "What time is it?"
"Early. Just after six."
"We spent the night together." Kate could hear the amusement and wonder in her own voice and she did nothing to hide it.
"We've spent the night together before."
"In bed," she clarified. "And don't try and act all cool because I know you're just as giddy about all of this as I am."
"Did you just say you were giddy?" Castle laughed gleefully.
"Shut up! That goes no further than this bedroom."
"As I already said, if I have my way, you'll go no further than this bedroom."
"Do you want coffee? I could use some." She turned onto her side, burying her face in Castle's neck and wrapping her arms around his torso.
"Does that mean you want me to go make you coffee?"
She smirked against his skin, teasing his Adam's apple with the tip of her tongue and the scratch of her teeth. "Only if you insist."
Castle groaned and gave her a gentle shove. "Okay. What madam wants, madam gets. Let me up. I won't be long, I promise."
Kate watched from bed while he hopped on one leg in the half-dark as he pulled on yesterday's boxer shorts and then his discarded undershirt. "You hungry?" he asked, lingering because he was simply reluctant to leave her.
"A little," she admitted, lolling back against the stack of pillows with the sheet barely covering her chest. She smiled, watching Castle's eyes fixate on the scalloped hem of the silvery sheet that exposed half her scar but concealed the rosy-redness of her worked-over nipples from view. "Stop staring and go get my coffee, Castle," she chided, shooing him out.
"Don't move. I'll be right back," he promised. He leaned down with one knee pressed into the mattress to steal a quick kiss from her lips before leaving.
Kate yawned loudly and let her head fall to one side. She stared at the growing light filtering through the blinds, feeling no urge to get up just yet. Though exhausted, her body hummed with sexual energy just knowing her partner was near and they had the rest of the day to themselves. She'd found someone she could laugh with, someone who knew her darkest secrets and yet still loved her. They'd shared more in the last couple of days than they had in last four years, and she found herself wondering what took them so long. What had really scared her so much?
After a light breakfast, they fooled around, lazily making love as the sky turned a deep indigo blue. They took their time, exploring and enjoying every inch of one another. Castle's touch was like none she'd ever experienced – always just the right pressure, the perfect stroke or caress, forceful when he needed to be and frustratingly gentle when he wanted to keep her on edge, teasing every nerve ending until she succumbed to a powerful, shivering climax. She was addicted to his skillful, intuitive lovemaking already, and she made sure she gave as good as she got in return.
Two orgasms apiece and they fell asleep, dozing into the heat of the afternoon, when the sun striped the sheets like a zebra.
When Castle awoke, he lay quiet and still, listening Kate's slow, steady breathing. His brain kept offering up new memories – both images and sense memories – flashes and snapshots, sounds from her and utterances of his own. The moment he entered her for the first time, that sweet, stinging agony of tight intrusion contrasted by the pleasurable glide when he finally breached the swollen wetness of her body and slid all the way home. He remembers his first name, ragged and beseeching on her lips while her fingers pressed into his flesh with a loud desperation to hold on, to cling and possess him for herself, hers alone from now on. Her body's responsiveness to his touch, to every lick, suck, bite, and thrust, left him awe-struck and craving more.
Goose bumps rose on his skin, surprising him from these thoughts, as the sheet shifted over his legs, briefly creating a cool breeze.
Kate had rolled onto her stomach, crawling up the bed on her elbows and knees until she could rest her sleepy chin on Castle biceps. "I wanted this," she said quietly, stretching over to press a kiss to his sternum before peering up at him a little shyly. "For a long time I've wanted this. I'm telling you now because I never want you looking back and thinking that I didn't, Rick."
Castle tilted his head, watching her as he listened. He skimmed her cheekbone with his thumb and she leaned in to his touch. "So…what happened?" he asked, managing to get to the nub of things without sounding accusatory.
When Kate lifted her eyes to his they were clear and wide despite her lassitude. She shook her head slightly and lifted her shoulder to shrug halfheartedly. "I didn't know how to ask for it. And I was still in a place where I knew that I shouldn't."
Castle nodded his acknowledgement, recognizing the truth when he heard it from this woman that he believed he now knew inside and out. "You know, for the record, you can ask me for anything."
Kate dipped her head and skimmed a kiss across the bare skin of his shoulder, letting her lower lip catch and drag across the tan curve of muscle and bone, where she nibbled. "I know that. I do," she explained, stroking his damp skin with her fingertips. "And that's precisely why I couldn't. It would have been too easy to take advantage, to use you for comfort when I wasn't fully ready to commit to something…bigger. Castle, the number of times over the years I wanted to take you to bed—"
He jerked upright, already reaching for her, fingers circling the nape of her neck as he caught her up in a bruising kiss.
Kate captured his chin and one ear to keep him there, coming back in for a softer, gentler kiss. "Don't ever think I didn't want you," she whispered. "But we would have failed and you'd have been caught in the crossfire. I didn't want to hurt you."
When he lay back down he took a moment to think about what she'd just said, before he asked, "And what about now? What makes this any different?"
"I'm not perfect. But I figure you know that by now. I've put in a lot of time…in therapy, trying to work through my issues. But it was time to take a chance on us or let you go for good. I could see that's where we'd reached. I haven't been fair to you and I'm tired of watching us both sleepwalk through life alone. We're good together when it comes to so many things, Castle. Maybe we'll be good at this too."
His next question came out of left field. "Apart from Will, have you ever been in a relationship you thought might go somewhere?"
Kate bit her lip at this serious question and shook her head. "I was emotionally…arrested…" she shrugged, "…frozen, whatever you want to call it, after my mother died. Once I entered the Academy, showing fear or weakness…even letting my grief in for a second meant potentially being picked on, singled out for bullying or…or it meant guys not wanting to partner up. No one wants to see weakness before you prove yourself on the street. So I locked my feelings away. It was just safer that way."
She closed her eyes for a second, smiling reflexively when Castle stroked her hair and nuzzled her cheek. His touch soothed her and it made talking about this difficult period in her life so much easier. She felt the words flow in a way she hadn't even been able to offer her therapist.
"Even later…when I hunted down her file and Montgomery found me…I was treating her case like some exercise to help me with the Detective Exam. It was a personal quest and it consumed all of my thinking, don't get me wrong. But, Castle, I treated it like a job, like a puzzle I had to solve."
She sounded faintly disgusted with herself.
"I…I looked at those crime scene photos over and over, until I knew them so well I saw them in my sleep. I forced myself to just stare at the detail until I could look at them without tears in my eyes. And then my mind became sharper, more focused on the facts, without the horror and injustice of it all to distract me from what needed to be done."
"Sounds like a difficult time."
"Yes. But that's how I knew I could do this job and be good at it. But what I was doing to myself…" She shook her head. "Didn't make for good girlfriend material."
She knew what they were doing. They were unloading the bad bits, unpacking personal history to expose all their dark corners for the sake of openness and honesty, hoping the other didn't turn away at the last second, horrified by what they'd seen. This was her turn. Castle's secrets would come out in time. They were beginning a process that would run for the rest of their lives. It felt liberating. He was the only man on earth she could imagine telling these things to, so she pushed herself a bit further.
"I should have been having fun in college back then, picking majors, going to parties, dating, falling in love with the wrong boy. Instead, I took all the pain that I felt and I let it drive me."
She smiled at him, toying with his fingers.
"I wasn't always the badass detective you love to write about. I was this scared teenage girl from a good home, loving life in California. I had a 3.9 GPA, was on a career track to Yale Law. What did I know about the streets? About drugs and gangs and prostitution? But I just had to do it. I had to learn. After she died, there was no other choice for me. Cops weren't gonna get her justice. I was pretty sure we didn't even have access to most of the evidence. Either that or they never collected it in the first place. We became a nuisance to them pretty quickly. You could tell. The unreturned phone calls, the meetings they were too busy to attend, the look in their eyes when my dad and I showed up at the precinct one day—"
Kate paused at the black memory, her brow knitting into a frown as she shook her head. "I'll never forget being made to feel like we were the problem. Not whoever did this."
She took a breath and cleared her throat. "That's why I vowed that when I became a detective, I would treat each case with care. No victim's family would ever see that look in my eyes or listen to me sigh when they wanted to know more or to tell me how much their loved one meant to them."
Castle squeezed her shoulder. "If it's any consolation, and I know it's not enough…but you've done an amazing job turning that tragedy into a way to help the people of this city on the worst day of their lives. Most homicide cops never see loss from your side of the fence. That's what makes you so good at your job. I'm not saying you wouldn't have made a great lawyer. I think you'd excel at anything you set your mind to. But you found this job for a reason, Kate, and so I'm glad you decided to come back from Maine and keep going. Even for a little while longer."
"You know the LSATs are still out there. If that's the route you want to take down the track. But you and I still have work to do. Your mom's still in line, waiting for justice. If we work together…quietly…maybe we can do it. I want to be there when you do."
"I want you there too."
Castle sat up suddenly, lifting her with him. "Go get your things from Lanie's," he said impulsively.
Kate watched him, and a smile began to tug at her mouth.
"Can you? Will you?" he badgered her. "Then you can stay here…for a few days at least. Please? We can ride in to work together."
Kate laughed loudly, stifling the uproar with her hand over her mouth. "That's your sales pitch? We can ride to work together?" she chuckled.
"Okay, not my main point."
"Then what is your main point?" she asked saucily, arching her brow to tease him.
"My main point from now on is making you happy, Kate Beckett. Whatever it takes."
"No." She shook her head and watched as Castle frowned.
"No?" he repeated.
"From now on how about we make that our main goal? Making each other happy."
Castle grinned. "I like the sound of that even better."
The next few weeks passed in a blur in which they settled into some kind of routine. Most nights were spent together, either at the loft or at Kate's apartment, where they cooked and did laundry, made love and binge-watched TV together.
Their days were still spent at the precinct working cases as they came up. But in their free time, quietly, they worked on Kate's shooting together, keeping their enquiries discreet so as not to alert the shadowy figures who remained just out of reach.
They made an even better team than before, and if space was needed, they took a night off to soak in the bathtub in Kate's case or to play poker with his writer friends in Castle's. Somehow, despite all the years of angst and doubt beforehand, it just worked.
In late September, one of the hottest on record, they invited Aunt Libby down from Maine to celebrate with them. The writer laid on a lavish catered lunch at his house in the Hamptons, though he insisted on making a blueberry pie for dessert, "just for old times' sake." Lanie, Jenny and the boys came along too, everyone dressed up, though Captain Gates made her excuses in order to keep a professional distance.
In a diplomatic move that impressed even Kate, Castle used his charm and the friendship he'd struck up with Libby to reunite her beloved aunt with her estranged brother-in-law. It was an emotional scene Kate never thought she'd witness: Jim and Libby hugging away long years of stony, grief-fueled silence. It finally felt as if her family was mending, after the nightmare that had broken them apart. Her gratitude towards Castle brought tears to her eyes and a lump to her throat.
After lunch, Libby and Jim took a timeout alone to bury their differences and catch up on the family news they'd missed by being out of contact for so long. They sat out on Castle's grand patio, watching the party, listening to the crashing of the ocean waves, sipping homemade lemonade and sharing memories of their beloved Johanna.
"What a change," Libby said, beaming as she watched Kate in her pretty black dress, encircled in the arms of the writer and with the biggest smile on her face.
"What a change from the girl who came to me just a couple of months ago, begging to stay in my guest room because she wanted to hide out somewhere no one knew her name." When she raised her hand and waved, Kate and Castle waved back.
What a change indeed.
Thank you for reading. And thank you to my good friend WRTRD for her flawless support. Until we meet again. ;)