Touchdown at Newark. No bags to claim, so he was holding her hand loosely as they wound through the crowd, parting for the occasional gawking group of tourists or school trip daisy-chained across the wide terminal.
She could use another shower, some food, another night alone with him. Some clean clothes. The order was jumbled, she didn't know which ought to be done first, but the shower probably would be fun with him rather than apart.
All good thoughts.
He hailed a cab rather than the Marriott airport shuttle she usually rode (and then walked nine blocks, but it was far less expensive). They sat nominally close, hands playing, her bottom lip caught between her teeth as he tried to push the envelope with respectability.
"This is my city," she murmured in warning.
"Mine too," he answered. "You think I don't have a reputation to maintain?"
She huffed, because this was part of his reputation. Or well, opposite really. He was supposed to be having a girl a week, playboy extraordinaire. "No, you really haven't worn the playboy persona since that first year, Castle. Don't pretend."
He was grinning in return. But his hands didn't stop their risque perusal.
He knew she loved it too.
At her apartment, he touched everything, picking up knickknacks and turning them over, inspecting her framed photos (oh, he was entirely too delighted by the one he found in her office, him of course, and she'd honestly forgotten it was there, so used to seeing it, letting it make her smile). He ran his finger over her books and pulled them off the shelf, looking for clever inscriptions.
She packed an overnight bag even as he hassled her to bring out the biggest suitcase. Three changes of clothes because she just didn't know, wasn't trying to assume (he told her assume away but he had a family who might think differently), but the zip of electricity when she tucked toiletries into the side of the bag made her a little breathless.
He was a big ball of energy. Annoying and childish, bumping into her on purpose, mucking up her packing, dangling her underwear from a finger and wriggling his eyebrows.
"Stop," she laughed. "You moron. Come on. Carry this for me while I strap on."
"Strap on?" he croaked. The look on his face was hilarious. She hadn't done it on purpose, but she could roll with it.
"Why? Scared yet, Castle?"
"Terrified." Eager adorable silly man. "In the best best way."
"My gun, Castle." She shook her head. "Gun and badge. I have to be at work bright and early enough to head off Gates."
"Head off," he gasped, but he couldn't keep his composure. His knowing laughter broke the mask of dazed lover, and he hooked his arms around her waist, dragged her into him. "Like the way you think, Detective. I ever tell you that?"
"Repeatedly," she murmured, craning her neck at this angle just to make him kiss her. No innocent peck, but not the devastating hunger that had almost been painful back in London. "Which is why we're going to work together on my mom's case." Her whisper was for his ears only, but her desperation communicated itself.
"We will, we are," he assured. "I should have from the beginning-"
"No," she sighed, voicing the most terrible truth. "I think you were right to keep it from me. I don't know that I could have… put in the work I needed here." She caught his hand and pressed it to her chest, above the scar. "If I was constantly drowning in her murder."
"We'll drown together."
"No. Neither of us are drowning. That's what I did all this work for, Castle. So I couldn't drag you down with me."
"Drag me down any day, Kate Beckett. The bed, the floor-"
She huffed at his constant need to diffuse her seriousness with his amusement. But it did make her feel a little less unworthy, a little more capable.
She hooked her arms around his neck, leaned back just enough to study his face.
How happy he was, how easily contented with what little she could give. She would have to remember that; she needed to keep that in mind. He asked so little, would never impose despite how he wormed his way into everything, that she would have to consciously offer more.
More. She'd been working on that all year. She knew what it looked like, had been living with it intimately, the effort of more. She'd been afraid that leaving their bubble across the ocean would mean the bubble would pop.
This wasn't London, but New York could be more.
"Hm?" He'd apparently been content to gaze longingly at her in silence. Cute.
Handsome. Strong. Stubborn for her. "Take me out. Dinner somewhere. And then back to your place like we… like we should have done."
"But I thought we'd go over the new stuff on the case?"
"No. No drowning tonight."
He gave her a look of askance. "You're not still drunk somehow are you?"
She was grinning, speaking before she knew what was going to come out of her own mouth. "Drunk on your love, maybe."
"Oh God, that was atrocious, Kate Beckett." He was laughing, his arms tighter around her, his body thrilling to her despite what he'd said.
"And you loved it."
He sighed, dropped his forehead against hers with a crash. "I did. I'll lose all my literary cred - hard-won, mind you - but I loved it." He nudged a kiss under her eye. "I love you."
"I love you too."