Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
Since the day she moved out of her parents' apartment after graduating from college, she has never lived with anyone. No semi-serious or serious relationship she has had in the decade since has come close to that stage. She'd wanted no part of it, for all kinds of reasons: good, bad, feeble, strange, savvy, unreasonable, reasonable. Ultimately, though, she'd been smart. Not one of the relationships would have survived. Not one of them did, anyway. Why? Because she or he couldn't or wouldn't commit. Not one of her lovers made her feel complete. Not one made her feel that she was on equal footing with him. Not one had either her total trust or unconditional love.
But Castle is altogether different. He has her trust and unconditional love, and she has his. He overwhelms her, but lets her be. He loves her for what she is and isn't, for what she has been and might be, for who she is as an individual and as a part of him–and she feels exactly the same way about him. They challenge each other. It took a long time, but each has learned how to forgive the other. She loves his intelligence and his imagination, his impulsiveness and his fidelity, his silliness and his seriousness, his open-mindedness and his curiosity, his kindness and his passion.
Not to mention his cooking.
Not to mention the sex.
"You, uh, did you hear what I said?"
"I did. I've never lived with anyone, you know."
"I've never shared physical and psychological and truly intimate space with another person. Not really. Not wholly. Not until you came up here. But you have."
"I have. Two bad marriages, and I share the blame for that. But Meredith and Gina weren't you."
"And I'm not them."
She rolls over and scoots up the bed until she's sitting up straight. "Are you sure about this?"
"Never been so sure of anything," he answers, moving up next to her.
When she drops her eyes and begins to pull nervously at a tiny loose thread on the hem of the sheet, his hand suddenly engulfs hers. "I think you have some doubts, Kate. If you're worried about losing your independence, don't. I promise not to crowd you. If I do, tell me to back off." His soft, concerned look melts into a hopeful smile. "Pull your gun on me if necessary."
"Not going to pistol whip you, Castle."
"Good, because I'm kind of a baby about that."
"The thing is." She stops to get her breath and summon her nerve. "I don't have doubts about you and me. I don't. It astonishes me, but I don't. Not one. The thing is, I wouldn't be moving in with you, not just you, but with Martha and, far more important, with Alexis. "I was stunned when you told me that when Alexis was growing up no woman that you were seeing ever spent the night at the loft. Not stunned, really, now that I know you, but touched. You always wanted to give your child stability, and you have. And now you want to bring me into the mix, me with more psychological baggage than actual baggage, me with my unpredictable job, me who has put your life in danger?"
"It's our unpredictable work that does that, not you."
"Not the way she sees it."
"Not always. But I've talked to her about that. If I'm in danger–and yes, sometime I am–it's not your doing."
"She's never really had to share her dad, either."
"That's true, but she's not sharing the dad part of me, you know. And she's seventeen now, not a kid. She's going to college next year. She's pressing me to give her more freedom, and I expect the same of her. You're not the only one who's wildly in love, you know. I am, too. Wildly in love with you."
"But you'll talk with her, right? And your mother?"
"Before the moving van pulls up to the building? Yes, I will." He sketches a large X on his chest. "Cross my heart."
"Don't forget the dogs. You'll tell them about the dogs?"
"Of course I'll tell them about the dogs. They're the deal sweetener. Maybe even the closer."
She grabs a pillow and swats him with it, but he pushes it away and pins her against the headboard with a very deep, very insistent, very irresistible kiss.
"What do you say, Kate?"
"Yes. I say yes." This time she kisses him, very deeply, very insistently, and, judging from his response, very irresistibly.
"May I tell Biscuit and Cookie?" he murmurs against her neck.
"I think they probably heard us."
It rains nonstop the next day, and the day after that. The puppies aren't happy about going outside in bad weather, so rather than long walks they get long indoor playtime. After breakfast on this soggy morning, Castle says, "Don't you think that it's time for us to go on our first date?"
"I thought breakfast at the diner was our first date."
"I dunno. Kind of unseemly that our first date was going out to breakfast just so that I could buy condoms. And we didn't call it a date, so it's not a date."
"Fine. What do you have in mind?"
"A movie. I checked the multiplex that's about forty minutes from here, and Green Lantern is playing. First show is at noon."
"You're so easy."
"Don't tell my Dad."
They put Biscuit and Cookie in their crates in the living room, with lights and the radio on. On the drive over she says, "You know we're going to be the only people there over fourteen, right? Except for a parent or two."
"Nope. Movie came out week before last, so they'll all be at Cars Two or Transformers Three. We'll probably have the theater to ourselves."
He's right. The only other people in the audience are two elderly men who sit way down front. "I bet they've been best friends since kindergarten," says Castle, who's apt to creates life stories for almost anyone he sees. "I bet they read Green Lantern comics together. First one came out seventy-one years ago."
As they start down the aisle, she tugs his arm. "Let's sit in the back row."
"You do know that with the exception of those two seats that are much too close to the screen, we can park ourselves wherever we want?"
"Of course I do. But aren't we going to make out? It's our first date. At the movies. No better place for that than the back row."
"True," he says, as they turn and make their way there. "Just so you know, once the lights go down I might try to feel you up."
"I should hope so. Because I intend to get a little handsy with you, too."
On the way home they stop for a burger. "What did you think of the movie?" he asks as they wait for lunch.
"Don't ask me. I have no idea what went on. You had all my attention."
"Do you usually behave like that on your first dates?"
"Not a chance. I'm not that easy."
"Is that your bare foot I feel snaking up under the leg of my jeans?"
"If it's not, you'd better worry. Could be a real snake."
When she wakes up the next morning, she's relieved to find the sun shining: Castle is driving to the Hamptons to break the news to his family about her moving in. "You should come with me," he says for at least the twentieth time, as they walk to his car.
"I think that would defeat the purpose," she replies, as she has, in a variety of ways, the same number of times.
"I worry about you being here all by yourself."
"It's three days, Castle. I think I can manage."
"Are you sure you don't want to have one of the puppies with you?"
"I'm sure. They're a bonded pair, remember, and it's too early to have them separated."
"You just described us, Kate."
She gives him a hug and a kiss, and a pat on the butt. "Get going." She pivots to go back to the porch, already missing him.
Halfway into his four-hour trip, he phones her. "We're at a rest stop. Biscuit and Cookie needed to stretch their legs."
"Their legs are about two inches long. Not much they can stretch."
"Look at those little faces," he says, aiming the phone at them. "Don't they look miserable? They don't know why you're not with us."
She feels at such loose ends all by herself. Strange, she thinks. She's spent all these years craving privacy and being on her own, and after this short time with Castle all that has changed.
Not a short time. Three years, at least five days a week, sometimes eighteen hours a day. And don't pretend you didn't want him a lot of that time.
Not a lot of the time, just occasionally. From time to time. When he wasn't driving me crazy or dating some awful woman.
I'm in charge of your dream life, Kate. I know exactly how much. I'm the one you can't fool.
Fine. But can you chill for a while? I have a lot to organize, you know, get ready for moving.
Okay, but I'm right here. Right upstairs, if you'll allow me a little joke.
Going through her apartment mentally, room by room, she makes a list of what she wants to take with her. Except for a few small things that she's keeping for sentimental reasons, everything in the kitchen and bath and linen closet can go to charity. Almost all the furniture can, too. The only things that she's keeping are the rocking chair that miraculously survived the bomb, some art, pillows, books–and of course her clothes. It's easy to let go, she thinks, when so many things went up in smoke a year ago. She's not nearly as attached to things now as she was then, anyway.
By six she's itching to call Castle, but she doesn't want to intrude. She does take a photo of her dinner–chicken salad on a bed of greens, a piece of reheated cornbread, and a bowl of berries. "This is my dinner," she texts him. "See how healthy it is?"
It's about half an hour before he replies, presumably because he's deep in conversation with his daughter and/or mother. "I'd be more impressed if I hadn't left it in the refrigerator for you with Post-its that said THIS IS YOUR SUPPER. BE SURE TO EAT!"
"Thank you, it was yummy." She adds a row of hearts and briefly considers sending him a provocative photo of herself. She shakes her head. Bad idea, seriously bad idea.
Thanks. Good night.
Good night? It's not even eight o'clock yet.
Yes, but I'm going to bed to read, so you don't need to check up on me.
She reads a couple of chapters of Tinkers, a new novel that she's liking, and alternately drifts off and wakes. She's already so used to having Castle next to her that the bed feels like some huge ship in which she's the only passenger and there's no captain or crew. A familiar sharp pinch in the pit of her stomach suddenly propels her to the bathroom. Ah, just as she thought: she's not pregnant. She's relieved, and Castle will be, too.
She's relieved, except in some formerly unexplored, even unknown part of her. She's not even sure where it is. Her heart, maybe. Or her soul. That's it, her soul. Some tiny, unlit space where some tiny, almost unintelligible voice might have said, but she's not sure about that, either, I think I want a baby. She presses her palm flat on her stomach, as she often does when she has cramps, but this time it's for a different reason. She allows herself a moment of sadness, lets it wash over her and then go out to sea. She really is relieved not to be pregnant right now. Later, definitely later.
It's not too late to call Castle, but she doesn't want to in case she's interrupting. What he's doing is difficult and complicated: there are so many people involved, so many different personalities and relationships and moving parts. Back in bed, she texts him. "Hope everything is going all right. Good news from here: not pregnant! Told you not to worry. Call me when you can. I want to say good night to the dogs." She hits send, counts to 15 and writes another text. "And to you. But I say a different kind of good night to you. xoxoxo"
Her phone rings not long after. She knew that no matter what, he'd extricate himself quickly to call her.
"Hey. You okay?"
"Yup. Just missing you."
"Same here. I'm glad I don't have to worry about your father coming after me with a shotgun, though."
"You're safe, I promise. So–" she wants to sound calm. "All quiet, or at least not hysterical, on the home front?"
"My mother is thrilled. Her exact words were, 'Oh, that darling Katherine. How wonderful! What the hell took you so long, anyway? I've been waiting for this for a year and a half'."
She could hear it as clearly as if Martha were on the phone instead of her grade-A mimic son, and that made her laugh. "That's so sweet. But how about Alexis?"
At first she worries about the momentary pause, and then she doesn't. Of course Alexis isn't going to welcome her as Martha will, but as long as she's not enraged or broken-hearted, they'll be fine eventually. Wicked step motherliness is not in her genetic makeup.
"Well, she didn't call you darling, or say it was wonderful, but she wasn't unhappy. We've talked for hours, and I can safely say that she's now looking forward to having you with us."
That's more than she could or did hope for, and her worry dissolves. "Thank you. And thank them. I'm going to work hard at this, Castle, I promise."
"I know you will."
There's a little crack in his voice. She didn't imagine it. Should she leave it alone or say something? She chooses the latter. "Are you crying?"
"I love you for that."
"I love you for that and a lot of other things." She's feeling a little weepy herself. "Hey! What about Biscuit and Cookie? Are they a hit?"
"Are they a hit? Is The Lion King a hit?"
"Geez, I wish you hadn't used an example that features giant cats."
"I see your point. Is Harry Potter a hit?"
Early the next afternoon she's on the deck, reading, and hears the scrunch of car tires in the driveway. Probably someone who's lost and needs to turn around. Still, she's a detective, and the unexpected always puts her on alert. She hears him before she sees him through the kitchen window: Castle, one dog in each arm, walking up the porch steps.
""Oh, you came back early." She flings the door open and throws her arms around him.
"Mission accomplished. No need to stay there when we could be up here with you."
They stay for a week, through the Fourth of July. The last night they grill chicken and Castle bakes a blueberry pie, and they stand in the pond with the puppies and write sappy things with sparklers against the dark sky.
"I have a surprise for you," she says after they come inside, handing him a tiny package tied up with red, white, and blue ribbon.
"Oooh, I love surprises."
"Technically they're for Biscuit and Cookie, but I hope you like them. I found a place online that lets you design whatever you want."
He tears the paper off and holds up two dog tags. One is in the shape of a bone and says BISCUIT; the other looks like a ginger snap and says COOKIE.
"Both our phone numbers are on them," he says excitedly. "I love these. Perfect, especially for our mostly-city dogs."
"Seemed like the right time, since we're going back to the city tomorrow."
They don't have much to pack, and the next day they're at the loft before 2:00. By the end of the week, everything she wants to keep has been installed in Broome Street, and her own apartment is empty. She surrenders the keys to the landlord without a regret. She'd never made a big emotional investment in the space, as she had in her previous apartment. At dinner that night Castle hands her a package that's about the same size as the one she'd given him a few days earlier.
"The usual method of finding out is to remove the paper. Since you're a detective, you probably know that."
Inside is a heavy silver key ring with a heart-shaped tag that's engraved BISCUIT & COOKIE'S MOM. Four keys hang from it.
"What are these for?"
He ticks them off on his fingers. "One, the loft. Two, our storage locker in the basement. Three, the front door to the Hamptons house. Four, the Ferrari."
"Wait, wait, wait. The Ferrari? You're giving me a key to your Ferrari?"
He looks solemnly at her. "January tenth."
"January tenth of this year. Six months ago."
She shakes her head. "I don't get it."
"January tenth is the the day you drove my Ferrari to that nightclub. We were on a case."
"Yes, I remember. But?"
"But? That's all you have to say?"
"Well, it's an incredible car."
"That it is, but you're missing the point. It wasn't the incredible car that burned that date into my memory, it was the incredible driver of the car. I'd say that watching you at the wheel, and especially when you were shifting gears or flooring the accelerator, was a religious experience, but my thoughts were anything but holy. It was one of the most erotic moments of my life, though several in the last few weeks have eclipsed it." He closes his eyes and shakes his head. "I can't wait to be sitting next to you when you drive it again, though this time as soon as you turn off the engine I'll be tearing your clothes off you."
"Thanks for the warning. Are you finished eating?"
"I guess. Don't you want dessert?"
"Yes, I do. And it's downstairs, in the garage. Let's go, Castle."
(Four-and-a-half-month time jump)
"This was a great Thanksgiving," she says, crawling into bed next to him.
"I thought so, too."
She rolls onto her side and wiggles around until she's all but glued to his side. "You know what was even greater?"
"Your idea, your wanting me to move in with you. Are you glad?"
"I can't believe you're even asking that, Kate."
"That's not an answer."
Using just his right arm, he pulls her impossibly closer. "Am I glad? No. I'm ecstatic, I'm over the moo, I'm deliriously happy. Every single day I thank every deity in every religion."
"Wow. Still, I think I have an even better one. Want to hear it?"
"Let's get married."
A/N Heartfelt thanks to all of you, but above all to Roadrunnerz for the deceptively simple prompt, "What if Beckett really didn't remember her shooting and asks Castle to tell her everything?" I loved it so much that the one-shot turned into ten! Anyone who offers a prompt takes a risk because s/he has at least a germ of an idea for the story and what someone else grows may be entirely different. But a writer who offers a prompt takes a much greater risk by putting her/his creative thought in the hands of someone else. So again, thank you, Roadrunnerz. I'll be back soon with the start of a new story.